KATHMANDU, April 24: The media fraternity in the country has grown wary of repeated 'obstructions' against the private sector press covering public events involving President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
In a continuation of similar instances in the past, journalists from private media houses were barred from covering the inauguration of the newly-built Nepal Army Headquarters building on Tuesday. Journalists from private media were denied entry to the venue when they reached HQ entrance.
Although the Nepal Army in a statement said they denied entry to all journalists due to “limited space ” , media rights activists have taken strong exception to this restrictive move . “I am wondering why such instances are repeated when it comes to public events involving the president. Even as the government has been saying publicly that there is no restriction on press freedom, these incidents show that the government is bent on curtailing press freedom,” argued former president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) Suresh Acharya.
Journalists from state-owned media, however, were allowed to report the army HQ event. “The discrimination between private and state-owned media is both unreasonable and illogical. It reflects the attitude of the government towards the press. It threatens to eventually place our hard-won press freedom in jeopardy,” Acharya further said, while referring to various other attempts of the government to muzzle the press of late.
In similar instances in the past, officials at the President's Office had willfully barred journalists from private media houses from covering the oath-taking ceremony for public officials. Only journalists from state media were allowed access.
Journalists from private media even staged a protest against such incidents, putting down their cameras in front of the President's Office. Media rights advocates have termed the latest restrictive moves by the government an attempt to stifle the free flow of information and gag privately-owned media in different ways.
According to a separate press statement issued by the army's Public Relations Directorate, President Bhandari inaugurated the seven-storey building that has a total of 430 rooms and 31 seminar halls. NA expects it to accommodate its various 47 offices including departments and directorates. Helicopters can land on the rooftop as needed.
Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Speaker of the House of Representatives Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Chairman of National Assembly Ganesh Prasad Timsina, ministers, chiefs of provinces, secretaries, and former army chiefs, among others, were present on the occasion.