KATHMANDU, June 14: Going against the government's commitment to uphold freedom of press, Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota has reportedly shut down a talk show of the state-run Nepal Television after the host of the program, Raju Thapa, grilled the minster about his property details.
In the live show named Sidha Prashna (direct question) aired on May 26, the minister is seen visibly irked with the interviewer when asked about the source of his properties. Thapa said that news chief of the television informed him on Tuesday that they decided to shut down the program reportedly upon the pressure from the minister.
“They informed me that they decided to shut the talk show following pressure from the minister,” said Thapa.
However, General Manager of NTV Sachin Roka refuted the allegation made by Thapa.
“The minister never asked the television to take any action against the program. We decided to shut it down as a regular process of closing some programs in the end of the fiscal year. It was a coincidence that the decision of the television came just after the host asked critical questions to the minister,” Roka told Republica.
Host of the talk show Thapa had a contract with the television for airing the talk show until mid-July, the end of the current fiscal year. NTV authorities have claimed that it was shut a month before the contract expiry in order to manage time for airing the FIFA World Cup.
On the other hand, Thapa claimed that the program was never shut in its 12-year history starting from the restoration of democracy following the people's movement in 2006.
The public has vented its ire against the minister for not tolerating critical questions and resorting to autocratic approach against the media. Various media-related organizations including Nepal Press Union, Freedom Forum have expressed concern and condemned the anti-press freedom action from the same minister who was supposed to safeguard the media. Meanwhile, the umbrella organization of the Nepali journalists, Federation of Nepali Journalists, has condemned the minister for taking such arbitrary decision to undermine press freedom.