Nepal newspaper due in court for case slammed as press freedom attack

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders slammed the move against Kantipur Daily and urged lawmakers to impeach the top judge.
Updated 02 March 2018

Nepal newspaper due in court for case slammed as press freedom attack

KATMANDU: Nepal’s largest newspaper is due in court Friday summoned by the country’s chief justice for articles critical of him, in a case widely condemned as an attack on press freedom.
The Kantipur Daily was subpoenaed by chief justice Gopal Parajuli on contempt of court charges for a series of articles that said the country’s top judge had given different dates of birth on various official documents.
Judges in Nepal have to retire at 65 and the suggestion is that Parajuli knocked years off his age to hold office for longer.
In the subpoena issued Sunday by Parajuli — who will preside over the case despite being directly implicated in it — the newspaper is accused of using “objectionable language” and repeating “imaginary facts.”
“The articles published by the Kantipur Daily are intended to obstruct the judicial process and weaken the judiciary by disrespecting the court and spreading confusion about the court and its justices,” according to the order seen by AFP.
Multiple news outlets have carried reports that the chief justice’s official documents show as many as five different dates of birth, but only the Kantipur Daily — Nepal’s largest newspaper by circulation — has been singled out by the court.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders slammed the move against the newspaper and urged lawmakers to impeach the top judge.
“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 watchdog’s Asia-Pacific expert.
“This is a completely unacceptable case of prior censorship that could have dire consequences for media freedom if it sets a legal precedent.”
Akhilesh Upadhyay, the editor-in-chief of Kantipur Daily’s English-language sister publication, The Katmandu Post, said the court order was motivated by a personal vendetta and said the newspaper would fight the charges.
“He has put a muzzle on the press,” he said in an interview with AFP earlier this week.
Parajuli was appointed chief justice nine months ago, and even by the youngest age on his official documents, is due to retire in two months.
Kantipur Daily’s editor-in-chief, the chairman, a company director and a reporter are due in court Friday.
They could face up to a year in jail if found guilty.
Nepal’s media industry has boomed since the country’s king was overthrown a decade ago following a brutal civil war, spawning dozens of newspapers.
A new constitution passed in 2015 proclaims complete press freedom and bans censorship of news, which was common during monarchic rule.
Journalists in the Himalayan nation do still face intimidation and arrest, particularly if reporting on issues deemed by authorities to affect national unity.
Nepal ranks 100 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index.


Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

Updated 24 February 2020

Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

  • MBC Group to support young film makers with training from industry professionals

LONDON: Young Arab film makers will have the opportunity to have their work showcased at next month’s Red Sea International Film Festival as investment in Saudi cinema gathers pace.

The Red Sea International Film Festival has announced a partnership with MBC Group, which will also broadcast the event’s opening ceremony on March 12.

As part of the deal, MBC Al Amal, MBC’s corporate social responsibility arm, will hold a Shorts pitch competition.

Ten short film projects will be selected from Saudi Arabia and the MENA region, with filmmakers being given a one-day workshop to prepare for a pitching session. 

Italian director and producer Stefano Tealdi will train the candidates to strengthen their skills and give them tips for better pitches, MBC said.

“We strongly believe that this new generation of talent is key in influencing change and creating the difference to the region’s media and entertainment content landscape, which of course includes independent film and mainstream cinema,” said Peter Smith, managing director of MBC Studios.

The region’s biggest broadcaster will also host talent days on March 17 and 18 to support Saudi scriptwriters, directors and producers.

The inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival takes place March 12-21 in Jeddah Old Town, under the theme “Changing the Script.” It aims to support and help grow Saudi Arabia’s emerging film industry which is attracting a slew of investment from homegrown dramas shot in the Kingdom to the construction of cinemas countrywide.

Real estate broker CBRE estimates that 45 new cinemas are expected to open this year.

The boom in cinema construction coincides with a push to develop the domestic Saudi film industry.

That is being driven by both the big and small screen as video-on-demand players that include MBC, Netflix and Amazon compete to deliver content that speaks to a young Arab audience.