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Eighteen publications in Jhapa stop operations after strike disrupts access to materials; journalist in Rautahat injured by police while covering clashes

(FNJ/IFEX) - The FNJ has called for action from the authorities on two separate developments, one in the Terai region and the other in the Rautahat region.

At least 18 publications in the Jhapa district, located in the central region of Nepal, have been closed since 22 February 2008.

According to Krishna Humagain, president of the FNJ Jhapa chapter, "We are forced to stop our publications due to the indefinite bandh (general strike) in the Terai region. We are unable to get the necessary materials for printing and distribution, such as paper, ink, fuel, electricity."

The United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) and the Federal Republic National Front (FRNF) called for a general strike as of 13 February.

Humagain also said that most of the publication houses in the district were also afraid of threats and attacks by the Federal Limbhuwan State Council (FLSC).

Altogether, six dailies and 12 weeklies have been closed in accordance with a decision made during a meeting between editors and publishers in Jhapa, held at the FNJ's office.

Other FNJ chapters in the Terai region said most of the publications there are facing similar problems and would have to shut down if the situation continued for another four days.

FNJ is shocked by news of the closure of the Jhapa-based publications and expresses serious concern about the issue. It urges the government and other concerned groups in the Terai region to create a safe and free environment for printing and publishing newspapers.

FNJ condemns the actions that have led to this situation and is concerned about the increasing amount of violence hindering media freedom and the right to information. FNJ urges the government to provide the materials necessary for publishing newspapers, with full respect and support for press freedom and freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, Madan Thakur, a member of FNJ's Rautahat chapter, was attacked by police personnel on 22 February in Rautahat, a central region of Nepal.

According to FNJ Rautahat chapter president Prem Chandra Jha, Thakur was attacked while he was covering news about the clash between police and cadres of the UDMF and FRNF. Cadres started to protest when the election commission's helicopter carrying election materials and commission staff landed at Rautahat, said Jha. Thakur sustained an injury to his leg during the attack.

FNJ has condemned this attack on a journalist by security personnel and is very concerned about the growing threats on journalists from all of the parties involved in these conflicts. FNJ is appalled that journalists are receiving threats and being assaulted repeatedly by personnel involved in protecting the security of the nation. FNJ urged the government authorities not to hinder journalists and media workers from carrying out their professional duties and to punish security personnel involved in the attack on Thakur. It also asked the government to be more diligent in protecting journalists and media workers.

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