Himal Southasian, a Lalitpur-based magazine covering South Asia, has decided to temporarily suspend publication. The magazine claimed that the government’s bureaucratic set-up was hiding under the garb of regulatory mechanisms to prevent the publication from receiving external funds.
“Himal is being silenced not by direct attack or overt censorship but the use of arms of bureaucracy to paralyse its functioning,” the magazine said. It stated that the press had remained largely independent in Nepal during the 1990s but the resolve to progressive ideas had deteriorated over the past two decades.
The Southasian Trust, which runs the magazine, mentioned that they had complied with the regulatory framework for external funding but was still being victimized due to political reasons.
“Government officials in the various regulatory departments privately admit that the Trust has been in full compliance but regret their inability to process papers due to “pressures”, citing powerful state entities who they refuse to name for the record,” it said.
Despite being blocked from receiving grants since the last seven months and unable to get work permits for non-Nepali citizens, the magazine managed to continue with the publication.
“Our dwindling workforce tried to overcome these and other challenges, but in the end suspension was the only option,” it added. However, the magazine will continue publication till November end to meet all the outstanding obligations.
exchange4media spoke to Nepalese journalists based in the country and abroad. According to sources, the press in Nepal witnessed lesser attacks by politicians as compared to systematic suppression under monarchical rule. However, it becomes difficult for journalists in case they are highly vocal against state authorities. Low wages of reporters is another concern.
“Media has been time and again intimidated and arrested in Nepal. Few journalists were even murdered during the time of Maoist insurgency. The King’s regime deployed military in news rooms for press censorship,” one source said.
It was also mentioned that Himal’s Founding Editor Kanak Mani Dixit was being probed by the Commission of Investigation on Abuse of Authority (CIAA) on charges of disproportionate wealth. Dixit had earlier taken a critical view on the appointment of CIAA chief Lokman Singh Karki in May 2013.
“Since investigation is ongoing against Himal by two departments, I sense it was hard for them to work. The issue of foreign investment in Nepali press was perceived very critically when the funding of few western governments in Himal Southasian was revealed a few years ago,” the source stated.
When exchange4media questioned Himal Southasian regarding its funding, the magazine stressed that it had always maintained transparency. “Most of the journalism we have been doing has been supported by donor funding,” said Aunohita Mojumdar, Editor, Himal Southasian.
According to Mojumdar, the magazine is primarily supported by three entities i.e. Norwegian Embassy in Kathmandu, Open Society Foundation and Mountain to Mountain Foundation from Switzerland. She wondered why the government was targeting Himal in particular.
“We haven’t done a great deal on Nepal that could have irked anyone. But there must be some political reasons,” she said. Commenting on the arrest of Dixit in April 2016, she stated that his “political targeting” was a matter of “public record”.
Some of the English-language media in Nepal has republished the statement issued by the Southasian Trust in some form or the other. But there hasn’t been massive outpouring of support. “We have not received any statement of support either individually or institutionally,” she said.