Social Science Baha

‘Objectionable Contents’: The Policing of Nepali Print Media during the 1950s

Lokranjan Parajuli (alias Ramesh Parajuli)

After the popular movement of 2007 v.s. (1950-51) the Nepali language print media sector saw a significant growth. With the publication of Jagaran weekly and Aawaj daily in 1951 from the private sector, the Nepali press also came out of the state’s direct purview. This paper assesses the status of press freedom in the decade of media growth between 1950 and 1960. By studying the actions taken by the state agencies (mostly the Kathmandu Magistrate Office) against various newspapers, it seeks answers to the following questions: under what legal regime did the newspapers function during that decade? To what extent did the newspapers enjoy the press freedom enshrined in the Interim Constitution? And what were considered ‘objectionable contents’ during that decade? By answering these questions, this paper shows that the freedom enjoyed by the press was gradually curtailed through legal amendments, resulting in the increase of the number of ‘actions’ taken against various newspapers. It also argues that the state agencies were particularly sensitive towards three institutions/agencies: the Shah monarch and his family, prime ministers and their governments, and foreign embassies and individuals. The likelihood of state action against newspapers increased with any negative content that was published related to these three sets of institutions/figures. This paper relies heavily on the book Nepali Patrapatrika ra Chhapakhanako Itihas by Grishma Bahadur Devkota (2024v.s.). More than half of this book (300 pages out of a total of 560) is devoted to detailing the actions taken against the newspapers for publishing ‘objectionable contents.’ However, the entirety of the ‘objectionable contents’ and the complete details of the actions taken by the state agencies are not published in the book, thus limiting the scope of this research.