Thursday, September 24, 2009

Has the Government of Nepal Shut Down the Kathmandu Post?

Servers for the Kathmandu Post have been been non-responsive for the last forty-eight hours in the wake of two stories within the last week involving books, freedom of the press and speech issues.

In the midst of gathering material for yesterday’s post on Barnes & Noble in Kathmandu, I came across a curious story in the online Kathmandu Post (aka Kantipur Online) about the rare book trade in Nepal.

On September 20, 2009, Harsha Man Maharjan reported that “the rare book business is expanding in Kathmandu. But the sellers do not want to divulge much information, because they don't want their competitors to know their trade secrets. So it's a difficult task finding out what really goes on in this sector. It is difficult to find out who is engaged in the business. If we google the rare book market in Nepal, chances are only Pilgrims Book House will come up. But there are quite a few other traders, who prefer to keep a low profile.

“Rare book sellers are quite rare in Kathmandu.”

I didn’t expect a booming rare book trade in Nepal. Then, in the last paragraph, the story took an interesting turn:

“Many ethnic communities are working to rewrite Nepal’s history to counter the official version that is being taught in the schools. There is a plethora of history books based on texts produced by foreign scholars. Except for a few writers, they rarely use texts from Nepal. Nepali scholars should write history from Nepali texts. And rare books definitely help in this task.”

The full text can be found on South Asian Media Net; the Kathmandu Post has disappeared from the Web.

Just a few days prior to that story, the Kathmandu Post ran an article on the Power of the Press; that story, too, is now inaccessible.

The BBC has recently reported that Nepal has been involved in a civil war with Maoist guerillas for the last ten years; over 16,000 people have been killed thus far. It is also trying to maintain a political balance with China, which claims to have interests in the nation, as does India.

Two weeks ago, Reporters Without Borders ran a story, Authorities Tighten Grip on Tibetan Websites and Readers.

All this has occurred leading up to a gushing reception held yesterday, September 23d, at the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China that was attended by senior political leaders of both nations.

Not a word of the fate of the Kathmandu Post has been reported on,

Has the Nepalese government, in it’s careful dance with China, cracked down on freedom of the press?

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