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Group seeking autonomy burns newspapers in protest over coverage

(FNJ/IFEX) - The daily "Purba Sandesh", published in Damak, the national daily "Kantipur" and "The Kathmandu Post", both of Kantipur publications, were burnt by cadres of Sanghiya Limbuwan Rajya Parishad (SLRP, an organisation seeking autonomy for the ethnic Limbu community) on 7 August 2007 at 5:30 a.m. (local time) near Ratuwa bridge, Damak, in eastern Nepal.

According to FNJ's Jhapa Chapter vice-president, Gopal Gadtaula, cadres burnt the newspapers, claiming that the dailies had published prominent reports critical of the SLRP and were therefore blacklisted. Gadtaula said that cadres burnt 500 copies of "Purba Sandesh" and about 1500 copies of "Kantipur" and "The Kathmandu Post". "Kantipur" and "The Kathmandu Post" were being transported from the Biratnagar regional office to Jhapa District.

The SLRP has called an indefinite strike in eastern districts starting on 7 August to demand a proportional electoral system in the constituent assembly election. The strike has been called to put pressure on the government to meet the group's demands, which include declaring several districts - Panchthar, Taplejung, Ilam, Jhapa, Sunsari, Dhankuta and Terhathum - as Limbuwan areas before the constituent assembly elections.

FNJ has condemned the attack on the newspapers and is concerned about the increasing number of threats against the media. It has urged the SLRP to respect press freedom and not to obstruct the press in any way. It has also urged the government to ensure the safety and security of media personnel.

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