Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by a recent increase in press freedom violations, including the torching of thousands of newspapers and physical attacks on journalists by demonstrators, officials and police. In one case this week, a journalist was beaten by police and detained for 48 hours.
“We are disturbed to see that the media have continued to be subjected to physical attacks, threats and harassment since the international fact-finding mission to Nepal in February,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The leading political parties gave clear undertakings in February to respect journalists’ freedom and safety, but none of the pledges have been kept and the parties are paying little heed to journalists. Nepal’s political leaders and the ruling Maoist Party in particular must repudiate such actions and ensure they are punished.”
Bimal Bista, a reporter for the newspaper Samacharpatra, was covering a dispute between residents in Dipayal, in the western district of Doti on 23 August, when he was arrested and bundled into a police vehicle. After being beaten by police officers in the vehicle, he was detained for 48 hours without charge.
Jaya Narayan Yadav, the treasurer of the Bara chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), andSagarmatha Television reporter Ramesh Subedi were verbally abused and forcibly ejected by deputy police superintendent Ram Prasad Das when they went to his office in the southern city of Birgunj on 16 August seeking an interview. Das accused Yadav of writing reports that put him in a bad light.
Violence by political parties
Members of Madhes Tarai Forum (MTF), a Tarai-based political party, intercepted a vehicle belonging to Kantipur Publications on 23 August in Rajbiraj, the capital of the southeastern district of Saptari, removed the 15,000 copies of three Nepali-language newspapers it was carrying – The Kathmandu Post, Kantipur and Nepal Weekly – and burned them in the street.
The head of the local MTF branch, Shyam Narayan Yadav, took responsibility for the torching of the newspapers and accused them of ignored his group’s demands, local press reports said. According to theHimalayan Times, Yadav wants Hindi to be adopted as the official language in the Tarai region.
Journalists Prakash Chandra Pariyar, Aneel Kshetri and Bhuwan KC of Kantipur TV were manhandled by members of the Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) and forced to leave while covering scuffling between party members and youth and sports minister Ganesh Nepali on 11 August. Videotape was taken from a camera.
Members of the local branch of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) forcibly prevented more than a dozen journalists from covering a training session for party members in the northern district of Makawanpur on 1 August although the media had been invited to attend.
Hardly a day goes by without an attack on the media in Nepal. The FNJ says there were 342 press freedom violations in 2008, with a significant increase in physical attacks on journalists and media premises.
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