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Protesters prevent journalists in the capital from working, assault some, damage media vehicles

(FNJ/IFEX) - Journalists have been mistreated during large protests in the capital against the increase in oil and gasoline prices. Protesters have brought traffic to a halt in many parts of the city, and have interfered with the movement of journalists who were either attempting to cover the protests or on their way to work on other stories. In some cases, the journalists were visibly identified as working for media outlets before being stopped by the protesters, and the protesters behaved in a hostile manner that appeared to be motivated by the fact that the person was a journalist.

FNJ believes that the protesters' behaviour is a restriction on press freedom, since that behaviour is making it very difficult for the journalists to cover the protests or other news. As well, the damage to certain media outlets' vehicles will hamper those media outlets from covering other stories in the coming weeks.

Maina Dhital, correspondent of "Kantipur Daily", and Anjali Subedi, reporter of "The Kathmandu Post", were beaten by demonstrators on 23 January 2008 at New Baneshwor, Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. According to a statement by FNJ's Kantipur chapter, demonstrators attacked the journalists while they were on their way to work at Tinkune. Demonstrators vandalized Dhital's motorcycle, although she was wearing a yellow jacket with "press" written on it and had press stickers both at the front and rear of her motorcycle. The statement also says that the demonstrators confiscated her wallet, which contained her identity card, driving license and two ATM cards. Subedi, a pillion rider on Dhital's motorcycle, was also harassed.

In a similar incident, protesters also vandalized motorcycles belonging to Kantipur media group journalists Bikas Thapa and Ganesh Rai, and Ashwini Koirala of "Saptahik", a weekly newspaper published by Kantipur in New Baneshwor.

FNJ was also informed that demonstrators at Ratnapark attacked journalist Shree Bikram Bhandari and vandalized his motorcycle. Similarly, Ananta Raj Luintel and Dewan Rai of "The Himalayan Times", Rajan Raj Joshi of "Annapurna Post", Madhav Nirdoshi, chairman of Hatemalo Media Services, and Lomus Joshi, reporter of "Independent Business News", were all attacked by protesters and their vehicles were vandalized.

Demonstrators also mistreated Rishi Dhamala, who belongs to a reporters' club, and photojournalist Sabin Tuladhar. A vehicle belonging to "Nepal Samacharpatra" newspaper was also vandalized in the incident.

"The Kathmandu Post", a national daily, said "demonstrators beat or manhandled at least 11 journalists and vandalized eight vehicles used by journalists during protests against fuel price hikes in the capital on Wednesday."

FNJ's press statement condemned the incident, saying it was completely irresponsible for protestors to tear up the identity cards of journalists and to use abusive language against them. It also criticized the government for the insecure conditions and demanded that the government compensate the journalists and media outlets for the vandalism of their vehicles.

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