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"Kantipur" newspaper journalist receives death threat; newspapers' offices vandalised; journalists in Bhaktapur threatened

(FNJ/IFEX) - On the last day of 2008, the Federation of Nepali Journalists' (FNJ) Media Monitoring Unit has noted several disappointing incidents of attacks and threats against the media in different parts of Nepal. After extensive efforts made by the FNJ to further press freedom, there has been some progress with the government towards a commitment in this respect. However, most of the media rights violations are still committed by those affiliated with the ruling parties in the government and the Constituent Assembly. In addition, incidents in which journalists have received threatening telephone calls from unidentified individuals are on the rise. The FNJ urges the government to take responsibility for the security of journalists and to promptly investigate these incidents and punish those responsible.

On 30 December, Bikas Thapa, a journalist for the "Kantipur" daily, received a death threat from an individual named Deepak Shahi after publishing an article entitled, "Use of Government Grant without Installation of Solar (Technology)". Shahi went to the "Kantipur" premises on the afternoon of 30 December along with two other people and threatened Thapa, saying, "Remember! Anything could happen to you any time." Shahi's name was mentioned in the article as being aligned with the Maoists and a newly elected board member of the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC).

The FNJ has condemned this incident and expressed its concern that media rights violations such as this are still occurring after political party leaders in the government and the Constituent Assembly have shown a commitment to press freedom.

In a separate incident, an unidentified group vandalised the offices of the "Lumbini" and "Pokharapatra" daily newspapers in Naya Bazaar, Waling Municipality-3, Syangja, on the evening of 29 December. The group broke the building's lock, damaged furniture and tore apart filed newspapers and other documents in the offices. The FNJ's Syangja branch condemned the group's actions and said, "The vandalism at the newspapers' offices constitutes a serious incident."

In another incident, on 31 December, Makar Shrestha, a correspondent for the "Kantipur" daily, received a threat in Bhaktapur district from Ram Prasad Sapkota (a.k.a. "DeepShikha") of the Young Communists League (YCL). Shrestha was threatened for publishing an article entitled, "Weekly toll of YCL and Youth Force, allied to CPN-UML (Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist), in Land Revenue and Survey Offices".

"DeepShikha threatened the journalist in a telephone call, demanding that a correction be published on the same page where the original news item was printed," the FNJ's Bhaktapur branch president, Narayan Sundar Kilambu, said.

Similarly, the FNJ's Bhaktapur branch has reported that other journalists, including Bharat Bandhu Thapa, an FNJ Bhaktapur branch executive member and a correspondent for Avenues Television, have been repeatedly threatened by unidentified groups via telephone calls in connection with news they have published or broadcasted.

The FNJ has issued a press release condemning these media rights violations and urging the government and the ruling parties to implement their commitment to press freedom. The FNJ also urged the groups and parties involved to respect the rule of law and follow due process if they disapprove of any news that is published or broadcasted.

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