Nepal's chief justice tries to gag newspaper
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) firmly condemns an order by the head of Nepal's supreme court, Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli, instructing the Press Council to ensure that Kantipur Daily, one of the country's leading newspapers, refrains from publishing any further reports criticizing him. The gag order clearly constitutes a misuse of the judicial apparatus for personal ends and a violation of a fundamental press freedom principle, RSF said.
The chief justice issued his interim order on 25 February when he heard a contempt of court complaint against Kantipur Daily’s editor, Sudheer Sharma, one of its reporters, Krishna Gyawali, Kantipur Publications chairman Kailash Sirohiya, and one of the company’s directors, Swastika Sirohiya. The complaint was prompted by a series of Kantipur Daily articles drawing attention to the different dates of birth that Parajuli has given in several official documents. The fact that the chief justice heard the case himself was a clear sign of a desire to take revenge on the newspaper.
“It shouldn’t be necessary to remind a chief justice that you cannot be judge and party at the same time,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This is a completely unacceptable case of prior censorship that could have dire consequences for media freedom if it sets a legal precedent. We urge Nepal’s parliamentarians to consider an impeachment motion if the chief justice does not rescind this decision at once.”
Under Nepal’s Administration of Justice Act, which is clearly being abused by the chief justice, Kantipur Daily’s reporter and representatives are facing up to a year in prison. His order violates Nepal’s 2015 constitution, which proclaims complete media freedom in its preamble and which bans the censorship of news and information in article 19.
Nepal is ranked 100th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.