Nepal radio shut over BBC report
BBC News Online, November 28,
Police in Nepal have closed a radio station
and arrested five staff members for trying to rebroadcast a BBC
interview with the Maoist rebel leader.
In the interview, Prachanda says the rebels
may reconsider their opposition to the monarchy if the king holds
free elections for a constituent assembly.
Radio Sagarmatha was about to broadcast
when the station in the capital, Kathmandu, was raided late on
Five staff members were arrested for what
police called an act of terrorism.
The BBC's Navin Singh Khadka in Kathmandu
says the BBC's news websites were inaccessible in Nepal for a
period but are now available.
King Gyanendra seized power in February,
saying the government had not done enough to counter the Maoist
Radio Sagarmatha's acting manager Ghamaraj
Luintel said government officials who carried out the raid had
left a letter instructing the station not to resume broadcasting.
He said a case would now be filed in court
against the government action.
The communication ministry said the broadcast
had been stopped because the radio station was found to be airing
what the government believed to be a banned item.
In an apparent reference to the interview
with Prachanda, the government said the action was initiated to
maintain law and order and to contain the spread of what it called
fear and terrorism.
The International Federation of Journalists
condemned the raid.
Its president, Christopher Warren, said:
"The use of intimidation tactics by the Nepalese government
in attempts to silence the media and dissenting, critical voices
The government introduced a controversial
media law two months ago, banning news broadcasts on FM radio.
The government took action against another
popular station, Kantipur FM, more than a month ago, accusing
it of violating the new law.
In his BBC interview Pushpa Kamal Dahal,
who is known as Prachanda, said the Maoists might change their
stance on the monarchy given elections that were held under the
supervision of international monitors.
"If [the] monarchy comes with that
kind of position [acceptance of constituent assembly] we can think
about the new situation. But right now we feel that this is not
the case in our country," he said.
"History has proved that in Nepalese
conditions the monarchy is the main obstacle for the cause of
democratic aspirations of the masses and for the cause of peace,"
Mr Prachanda said.
Rabindra Mishra of the BBC Nepali service,
who conducted the interview - Mr Prachanda's first ever audio
interview - says his comments confirm a recent softening of the
rebels' stance towards the monarchy.
Our correspondent says the government
has always opposed the idea of a constituent assembly but the
change in tone by the rebels might allow it to rethink its position.