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Maoist supporter issues death threat against journalist

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum is deeply concerned over death threats issued against Rana Bahadur BK, a district correspondent for the Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) news agency in Bajura, a remote, midwestern district of Nepal, on 4 December 2010.

In a press statement issued on 4 December, Rana Bahadur said that Siddaraj Jaishi, a United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-Maoist)-affiliated employee at the district veterinary office, threatened to kill him over the publication of a news story. Rana Bahadur wrote a story on the confiscation by police of two horses used by two senior Maoist leaders. The report revealed how local Maoist cadres were involved in wrongdoings, for which they were arrested by police and had to pay a NR 1,500 fine (approx. US$21).

The statement issued by Rana Bahadur also said the Maoists had attempted to force him to write an "excuse letter" in relation to the news story. However, the journalist refused to write the letter.

"I am not deviating from my professional norms and values," the journalist told Freedom Forum over the phone. "Since I have not made any mistake, why should I write an excuse letter?"

"What Maoists cadres in the district are doing is apparently a breach of the rule of law and the norms of press freedom," he said. "I won't give up my professionalism over threats and pressure."

Freedom Forum strongly condemns the incident and calls on the government to immediately bring the guilty party to justice. Since the constitution of Nepal guarantees freedom of reporting on issues of public interest, this kind of threat from Maoist cadres is an offence against press freedom.

Furthermore, Freedom Forum asks local UCPN–Maoist cadres to take legal action if the news story in question is not accurate, instead of intimidating and threatening the journalist. Freedom Forum also urges the Maoist leadership to respect the rights of journalists to report freely on public issues and asks the government to provide protection to Rana Bahadur in order to allow him to continue carrying out his work.

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