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Newspaper editors and chairman receive threats over news coverage

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 17 February 2010 - Last week's threats against the chairman and editors of two Nepali newspapers over their coverage of the murder of media owner Jamim Shah on 7 February are a reminder that the media in Nepal are still in danger following the end of the ten-year-long civil war and in spite of commitments made over a year ago by the Nepalese government to journalists, and to IPI and other press freedom organisations.

Following the end of the civil war in November 2007, IPI joined two international missions in the run-up to, and during the June 2008 Constituent Assembly elections. IPI conducted a separate press freedom mission as a follow-up to the elections.

Jamim Shah, Chairman of Spacetime Network Pvt. Ltd., was shot dead on 7 February in Kathmandu by unknown assailants riding a motorcycle. The police have not confirmed that his murder was related to his activities in the media business. Media tycoon Shah was well known in Nepal for, among other things, having introduced Cable TV to the country.

"At a time when the debate of security of journalists is on the floor, this incident is another instance showing that Nepali journalism is under massive threat and harassment," the Chairman of the IPI National Committee in Nepal, Padma Sing Karki, told IPI.

On 12 February, the chairman and managing director of Kantipur Publications, Kailash Sirohiya, received an email message telling him to cease coverage of the Shah murder or face consequences within 15 days. On 11 and 12 February, Kathmandu Post editor Akhilesh Upadhyay and Kantipur editor Sudheer Sharma received threats over the telephone, Kantipur Online reported.

An unidentified individual told Sharma over the telephone to "stop immediately the kind of news coverage you have been giving to Jamim's killing, or else you will face serious consequences within 15 days." In a separate telephone call, Akhilesh Upadhyay was told to "shut up or we will make you shut up."

Two days after the threats were issued, media organisations in Nepal protested the government's failure to condemn such threats.

"In spite of the strong verbal commitment to press freedom and journalists' safety that Nepal's government representatives have given to IPI, the authorities in the country have so far failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of the numerous attacks against journalists in recent years," said IPI Director David Dadge. "As Nepal is struggling to develop functioning democratic institutions after so many years of civil war, ending impunity must be a priority."

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