Nepali media on Wednesday asked China to refrain from issuing threats and respect their freedom of the press, a right granted to them by the country's constitution.
In a statement issued by the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu on Tuesday, Beijing had taken exception to an article and an accompanying illustration published in the Post on February 18. The embassy had identified a Nepali newspaper, the Post's Editor-in-Chief Anup Kaphle by name and accused him of being "always biased on China-related issues."
The Post had reproduced an article titled 'China's secrecy has made coronavirus crisis much worse' by Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO, originally published in The Korea Herald, a member of the Asia News Network. The accompanying illustration showed Mao Zedong wearing a mask.
China in its statement said, "This time he (Kaphle) went as far as disregarding the facts and becoming a parrot of some anti-China forces, and therefore, his ulterior purpose is destined to failure. The Chinese embassy in Nepal has made solemn representations to the newspaper and himself and reserves the right to further action."
Infuriated by the embassy's reprimand of their colleague, 17 editors issued a statement on Wednesday, condemning China for employing "disparaging language, and making a veiled threat of further action."
"We respect the right of an individual or organisation to express their disagreement over materials published in the media," the editors said. "But we disagree with the disparagement and threats issued by naming any particular editor. We condemn such an act."
The editors said the embassy had "breached the diplomatic decorum." "Nepal's constitution has guaranteed full press freedom, and we are committed to exercising and protecting it," they said.
The statement was signed by Akhilesh Upadhyay, Ameet Dhakal, Arun Baral, Kiran Nepal, Krishna Jwala Devkota, Gunaraj Luitel, Narayan Wagle, Purna Basnet, Prakash Rimal, Prateek Pradhan, Prashanta Aryal, Basanta Basnet, Rajendra Dahal, Shiva Gaunle, Sudheer Sharma, Subhash Ghimire, and Hari Bahadur Thapa.
Outraged by China's interference in their media, Nepalis on Twitter ran hashtags like #ChinasIntolerance, #ChinasIntoleranceTowardsMedia and #RespectSovereignty.