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Concern over growing threats to Nepalese journalists

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - 23 January 2013 - Freedom Forum is gravely concerned over the growing insecurity for journalists in recent days in Dailekh, a district in the far western region of Nepal.

Journalists have been receiving threats by supporters of the ruling Maoist party following the arrest of its cadres on suspicion of the 2004 murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa.

On 23 January, cadres of the ruling UCPN-Maoist party publicly warned that as many as 10 journalists based in Dailekh would meet Thapa's fate. The threat was uttered while the party supporters were rallying to welcome the Prime Minister for a program. Puskar Thapa, a district reporter with the Annapurna Post daily, told the Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, that "We were publicly threatened by the Maoist cadres. The security for us is so meager that 10 journalists including myself are hiding to escape the aggressive Maoist cadres." Moreover, journalists were prevented from reporting on the program the PM was addressing, which is a violation of their right to freely report and citizens' right to information.

In addition, party cadres vandalised the offices of the Hamro Teshro Ankha daily, published and edited by journalist Govinda KC. Govinda KC, who is a district reporter for the Nagarik daily, said, "My office for the Hamro Teshro Ankha daily was vandalized by the Maoist cadres. They smashed the window glass, snapped telephone wires and broke some furniture."

Both Puskar Thapa and Govinda KC said the situation in Dailekh district headquarters was very tense because both the ruling party and the opposition parties were holding mass meetings in the same area. As a result, clashes broke out more than three times between supporters of the sides and six journalists were injured. The Maoist cadres reportedly rallied with pistols and homemade weapons.

The recent flurry of threats against journalists in Dailekh has not only violated their rights but also poses a tremendous threat to their lives. The government's sheer negligence in this matter is quite condemnable, says Freedom Forum. Instead of safeguarding the journalists' security, the government has promoted insecurity, impunity and terror which are a detriment to media freedom and freedom of expression. It is quite ironic that the government which has the prime responsibility for providing a feeling of security for citizens and journalists is almost trampling their rights. This is an attack on democracy.

Freedom Forum therefore condemns the threats and the act of vandalism. It strongly urges the Prime Minister to respect press freedom and instruct his cadres accordingly.
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