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Community radio station overtaken, staff locked out by smugglers

(FNJ/IFEX) - Ramaroshan FM, the only FM community radio station in Achham, a far western district of Nepal, was padlocked on 7 December 2008 by hooligans.

According to Chhatra Saud, a Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) central committee member and regional joint coordinator, a group of alcohol smugglers took control of the station and locked its doors in response to a news broadcast about alcohol smuggling with the support of the local police. Bed Prakash Timilsina, the FNJ's Achham chapter president and Binod Thapa, the chairperson and a journalist for Ramaroshan FM, along with the radio station's staff were forced to hide to save their lives after the police refused to provide them with security.

Previously, liquor was freely available in shops throughout Nepal and there was no age limit for drinking. However, a new budget tabled by Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai, which has been in effect since 17 November, promised to stop the unregulated sale of alcohol. Only licensed vendors can sell alcohol now and they must renew their licenses.

The group of people who locked the station returned the key after two days, allowing the station to resume broadcasting. To achieve this, FNJ played the role of mediator and pressured the group to unlock the station.

FNJ denounced the incident and said that it is very shameful that the police, who are in charge of applying the law are acting against it. FNJ urged the government punish those who have been involved in violating press freedom and freedom of expression. It also urged the government to provide safety and security measures for journalists.

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