Nepal’s media condemns China’s intervention in press freedom

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The article in The Korean Herald with an illustration of Mao Zedung wearing a mask (Nepali Times)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, FEB 20: Nepal’s media has condemned a statement made by the Chinese embassy regarding an article published in The Kathmandu Post. The statement shared by the Chinese ambassador, Hou Yanqi, on Twitter, was circulated by various other media outlets. It objected to the article with the accompanying illustration of Mao Zedong, and identified the Editor-in-Chief of the news agency by his name with disparaged language. It also reported that the embassy made a “veiled threat of further action”.

The Post had republished an article titled, “China’s secrecy has made the coronavirus crisis much worse” by Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO, in one of the branches of Asia News Network. The accompanying illustration showed Mao Zedong wearing a mask.

On Feb 19, seventeen editors of Nepal’s dailies and online portals condemned the Chinese embassy statement and reminded the embassy that full press freedom is guaranteed by Nepal’s constitution. The Federation of Nepali journalists, an umbrella organization of more than 13,000 journalists across the country, issued a statement expressing serious concern and directing the embassy’s attention to the Press Council.

In Oct last year, The Kathmandu Post had also reported on the extradition treaty signed between Nepal and China which agreed to extradite “criminals” to the neighbouring countries. Xi Jinping was said to be adamant in pushing through the extradition treaty that would allow Beijing and Kathmandu to handover criminals or suspected criminals. International rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised concern that China in the past has used bogus charges, such as fraud, to imprison those who oppose its policies.

Nepal’s press fraternity has lately become aware of China’s aggressive front where press freedom and human rights issues are concerned. Nepal has curbed freedom of Tibetans and repeatedly undermined the struggle of Tibetans. This confrontation has backfired with a lot of criticism as many organizations and agencies criticize the official statement. “Expressing disagreements with news and opinions published in the media are well-accepted practice. But just because it disagrees, an embassy issuing threat is undiplomatic, irresponsible and condemnable. Our political culture of kowtowing to embassies is also equally responsible for this situation,” said Rabindra Mishra, a journalist-turned-politician, on Twitter.

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