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Journalist hospitalised after assault linked to critical article

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 10 December 2009 - Nepalese Journalist Tika Bista was on Wednesday airlifted to Kathmandu Model Hospital for treatment a day after being assaulted by unidentified persons near her home in Garayala VDC, Rukum District, in Western Nepal.

Doctors treating her said she was attacked with domestic weapons and suffered deep wounds. Her condition is now stable.

Bista, who writes for the Kathmandu-based Rajdhani daily, had been focusing on social problems and violence against women, The Himalayan Times reported. In the seven days before the attack, Bista had been receiving threatening telephone calls on her cellular phone.

The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) said the death threats were in connection with a recent article she wrote criticizing the UCPN Maoist party. She had informed the police about the threats.

"It is unacceptable that journalists have to fear for their life when raising issues of public concern," said IPI Deputy Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. "By exposing wrongdoings, journalists render great service to the society. The authorities must strongly and swiftly prosecute those responsible for this and all such attacks."

Police found Bista unconscious on a steep hill at 11 am on 8 December. The attackers had also damaged her mobile phone and laptop and thrown them away.

She regained consciousness in the evening, about seven hours after the incident.

Home Minister Bhim Rawal, who visited the journalist in hospital today, promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. Yesterday, Information Minister Shanker Pokharel said that Maoists might have been behind the attack.

Journalists in Nepal are regularly the victims of violence, in particular in the country's rural areas.

Journalist Uma Singh was murdered in January this year in Nepal's southern district of Dhanusha. Singh was stabbed repeatedly by a group of approximately 15 unidentified men who broke into her rented room in Janakpur. She was well known for her reports on women's rights and political issues and was vocal in condemning the ongoing violence in the southern Terai region.

In July, journalist Shiva Oli was forced to go into hiding following intimidation related to a story about corruption that he had written.

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