Government seeks clarification from Radio Nepal executive director over Baburam Bhattarai interviewMove comes a day after the state-owned broadcaster removed the programme's audio from its website.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has sought clarification from Radio Nepal Executive Director Suresh Kumar Karki regarding an interview with Janata Samajbadi Party leader and former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai.
The state-run radio on Monday morning aired an interview with Bhattarai on its morning talk show ‘Antarsambad’ hosted by Nawaraj Lamsal, the chief of its News Division.
The ministry’s move of seeking clarification from Karki follows a directive to Radio Nepal to remove the interview from its website.
The authorities had apparently taken issue with some of the words Bhattarai had used for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli while criticising the government’s some controversial decisions.
In the interview, Bhattarai criticised the government and the prime minister’s working style and went on to describe him as an authoritarian ruler and a complete failure.
Bhattarai had also alleged that the prime minister was behind the kidnapping of lawmaker Surendra Yadav, seen as an attempt to split the Samajbadi Party.
Radio Nepal on Monday afternoon had issued a statement, saying it had deleted the audio and that it would be more careful while choosing guests for the programme in the future.
Social media users were quick to react, criticising the government for forcing Radio Nepal to remove the audio and describing the incident as an attack on freedom of expression.
“At a time when the voice has been raised over decades to change the State owned Radio Nepal into a public service broadcasting, misuse of these media for the admiration of ruling party is a serious set back on right to free expression [SIC],” Taran Nath Dahal, of Freedom Forum, a civil liberty group, wrote on twitter.
Others criticised the radio for apologizing for opinions expressed by an individual.
“Why is @radionepal apologizing for opinion and views expressed by an individual who was there to express his opinion and views? Clearly evident level of #FreePress and #PressFreedom,” wrote one twitter user.
The Oli government order to Radio Nepal to remove the audio on Monday came at a time when it faces criticism for some of its controversial moves, including the arrest of a former secretary over his social media posts and alleged kidnapping of a sitting lawmaker.
In a letter issued on Tuesday, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has asked Karki to furnish his clarification within three days.