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Journalist briefly detained, others threatened over reporting; FNJ concerned over increase in attacks on media

(FNJ/IFEX) - FNJ denounces a number of recent violations and attacks against journalists in different parts of the country.

On 2 August 2008, Sushil Dhungana, a news correspondent for "Samachar Saransha" newspaper, received a death threat from an unidentified individual. The incident took place at Dhangadi, in the far western region of Kailali.

According to the president of FNJ's Kailali chapter, Drigha Raj Upadhyaya, an unidentified person called Dhungana and threatened to kill him because of a report entitled "Increasing smuggling at Vajani Border, Concerned Authority Silent", published in the daily on 1 August. The caller spoke in Nepali but used a mobile with an Indian number.

Samjhana Paudel, a news correspondent for Nepal FM station, was arrested on 3 August while gathering information on a protest organised by women's rights activists at Maitighar Mandala, Kathmandu. Police asked the journalist, "You are the one who writes about women?" She was held at the Nepal Police Club, on Exhibition Road, and released later the same day, at around 10:00 p.m. (local time).

Rajesh Jha, joint secretary of FNJ's Saptari district chapter, was threatened by Young Communist League (YCL) affiliate Arun Goit for reporting on the death of district education chief Hasarat Ali.

On 4 August, members of the Madheshi Students' Front sent fire to copies of "Kantipur", "Samacharpatra" and "Blast Times" newspapers. The incident occurred at a bus station in Inaruwa, Sunsari, in eastern Nepal. The students accused the dailies of not reporting on, or publishing photographs of, an incident in which students of the Dharan Engineering College were beaten.

FNJ condemned these incidents, noting that there are legal processes to which one can resort when offended by a news item. The organisation urged the local authorities to ensure the safety of journalists.

Finally, on 5 August, Ajaya Sah and Ganesh Kharel, members of FNJ's Dhanusha chapter, were threatened by a commander of the Terai Rastriya Mukti Sena (TRMS). The incident occurred in Janakpur, district headquarters of the central region of Dhanusha.

TRMS Commander Akash Taygi issued a press release ordering all FM radio stations and newspapers that broadcast or publish in Nepali to close. The commander threatened to take action against any media outlets who did not obey the order. The reporters were threatened again in a telephone call after they failed to comply with the order.

FNJ denounced the incident, calling for respect for press freedom and stressing that Nepal is a multilingual country with a republican system of government.

Attacks on the media have increased in June-July 2008. FNJ is concerned over the government's silence and failure to protect journalists, and urges the authorities to put an end to impunity by creating a favourable environment for the press to perform its duty.

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