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Media group's premises and employees attacked; journalists assaulted during protest rally

(FNJ/IFEX) - The premises of the Himal Media group, based in Hattiban, Lalitpur, a region in central Nepal, were attacked by two groups led by the Maoist-allied All Nepal Communications, Printing and Publication Workers' Union (ANCPPWU) and the All Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Workers' Union (ANHRWU) at noon (local time) on 21 December 2008. The vice-president of the ANCPPWU's Lalitpur branch, Ramesh KC, and the ANHRWU's president, Ramesh Babu Pant, were leading the groups during the attack.

In a press release, FNJ said that more than a dozen media employees were injured, including "Nepali Times" editor Kunda Dixit, "Himal Khabarpatrika" executive editor Kiran Nepal, chief executive officer Ashitosh Tiwari, "Himal Khabarpatrika" reporter Damber Krishna Shrestha and administrative employee Surendra Sharma. The group of 40 to 50 people entered the media group's premises and attacked employees, then vandalised the office and left after 15 minutes. The group entered the premises asking, "Who wrote the news against the Maoist union?" In the latest issue of "Himal Khabarpatrika," an article was published on an incident in which Maoist workers seized magazines.

Himal Media publishes "Himal Khabarpatrika", the "Nepali Times", "Himal South Asia", "Wave" and other titles.

FNJ condemned the attack on the media group and its employees and said that it is very shameful that freedom of expression and media freedom is seriously violated by groups allied with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which is leading the government. FNJ urged the government to punish the culprits.

On 22 December, at approximately 3:30 p.m., a group of journalists was attacked while taking part in a protest rally. The rally, which headed from New Baneshwor to Maitighar-Mandala, had been organised by the FNJ to protest the attack on the Himal Media group.

Police officers launched an attack on the journalists when they tried to gather in the prohibited area of Maitighar-Mandala. During the incident, FNJ secretary Ramjee Dahal received a head injury. He is being treated at Model Hospital.

FNJ has announced it is planning a number of protest actions and has called on media workers to gather at Babarmahal at 3:00 p.m. on 23 December. In a press release, FNJ condemned the attack on the media employees and asked the government to punish those responsible as soon as possible. FNJ also demanded that the government assume responsibility for all costs of Dahal's treatment.

In a separate incident, FNJ president Dharmendra Jha, Reporters Club president Rishi Dhamala, and Ishowri Ohja, former president of FNJ's Kavre chapter, were mistreated at Dolakha while the group of journalists were on their way to participate in a programme held by the Nepal chapter of the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA).

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