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Journalist and newspaper carrier released after brief detention, harassment by militants; members of same group arrested for attacks against five journalists

(FNJ/IFEX) - Shree Shresha Rai, photojournalist and correspondent with "Shree Janamat Daily", and newspaper carrier, Ram Sigdel, were captured at around 8:30 a.m. (local time) on 22 May 2007 at Bargachhi in Biratnagar, an eastern town of Nepal.

According to Rai, cadres of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) kidnapped them while they were on their way to Itahari, Sunsari, an eastern district of the country. They were returning to the newspaper office on a motorbike with printed newspapers. A group of MJF cadres stopped them and asked them to reveal their identity. When they showed their press passes, the MJF members seized them along with the keys to the motorbike.

The two media professionals were then taken to Bansbari chowk, about 2 kilometers from Bargachi, where other MJF cadres seized their newspapers and harassed and threatened them. The MJF threatened to burn the motorbike and hold the two men up for the entire day. The cadres also expressed their dissatisfaction with the newspaper's coverage of them, stating that such newspapers should be stopped.

Rai and Sigdel were released, after being held for two hours, when police personnel arrived and spoke with the MJF cadres. Their identity cards, keys and newspapers were also returned.

In another development, several MJF cadres have been arrested in relation to the 4 February attack on five journalists at Tanki Sinwari in Biratnagar. The MJF cadres began an indefinite strike on 22 May against the arrest.

FNJ condemns the incident and urges the concerned parties to respect press freedom and the free flow of information. The FNJ secretary general also leaves for Biratnagar on 22 May to investigate the incident and to initiate talks to improve the press freedom environment in the district.

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