Nepal's royal government tries to shut down private radio station

Nepal's political parties called for a general strike Friday after the royal government threatened to shut down a private radio station for disobeying a ban on news broadcasts. The government on Wednesday notified Kantipur radio, part of the country's largest media group, that it would be shut down if it fails to justify why it defied the ban on private news broadcasts.

Kantipur radio called the threat illegal and said Thursday that it would challenge the notice in court as hundreds of activists gathered outside the station to support the broadcaster and protest new laws imposing prison terms and bigger fines on journalists who criticize the government.

Nepal's seven major political parties have called a one-day general strike for Friday in Nepal's capital, Katmandu, to protest the new press restrictions and the government's threat to shut down Kantipur radio, urging schools, businesses and public transport to shut down. "We will intensify our protest against the black law and government's attacks on the media," said Bishnu Nisthuri of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists.

King Gyanendra seized absolute power on Feb. 1, disbanding the democratically elected government and cracking down on dissent, saying the move was necessary to combat a growing communist insurgency.

Criticism of the royal government and security forces has been banned, along with any independent reporting on the insurgency by Maoist rebels seeking to establish a communist state in this Himalayan kingdom. Dozens of reporters have been arrested since the king's power grab, and three are believed to still be behind bars, reports the AP. I.L.