Kathmandu, June 5, 2005

Contrary to the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) demand of Rs 21 billion as defence budget for the coming fiscal year, the government has agreed to allocate only Rs 12 billion. An official at MoD said the negotiation for increasing the budget was still going on, adding that the issue had almost been settled at a little over Rs 12 billion. “The government has agreed to allocate over Rs 12 billion,” he said. He, however, hastened to add, “We are still negotiating to get more, and the proposal is under consideration of the Royal palace. So, nothing can be said right now what budget will finally be allocated.” MoD officials say the ministry had demanded about Rs 18 billion initially, but hiked the demand to Rs 21 billion later. If the government sticks to its stance, only Rs 4 billion will be increased for the defence budget in the coming fiscal year. The government released only over Rs 8 billion last year though the MoD had demanded about Rs 16 billion. The defence budget is being increased as RNA plans to recruit 13,000 more men in future, and also for buying helicopters, constructing infrastructure and purchasing military equipment. In the process, the Army has already established Royal Nepalese Army Aviation Training Centre at the 11th Brigade on the airport premises.

Nepali Press under siege: Media mission

Kathmandu, July 14, 2005

Representatives of an international media mission on a visit to Nepal today said they found Nepali journalists were facing “severe harassment” from both the government and Maoists. The mission toured the country to assess the Nepali media after the February 1 royal takeover. Jacqueline Park of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), one of the members of the mission which visited Biratnagar and Dharan, told this daily that the media persons were under “seige” and were facing “psychological harrassement” from both the sides. She said they met a journalist held by the Maoists for 56 days in Ilam and another who was held by the army in Jhapa and beaten up for nine days. She said they were concerned about economic blockade imposed by the government on the independent media and the ban on news broadcast in independent radio. Shawn Crispin, Asia Consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said his team visited Butwal where he found that the journalists were in a state of “insecurity”. “They presented a portrait of insecurity,” Crispin said, adding, “Journalists from the region are under immense pressure, not just from the RNA or the Maosits, but also from a growing band of vigilantes.” Their only defence from attacks of the three sides are their pens and conscience, he said, adding that they faced sub-censorship for certain political news.