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Journalists attacked and threatened

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - On December 18, 2010 students associated with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN–Maoist), the largest political party in Nepal, issued a death threat against Devnarayan Saha, a correspondent for the national "Kantipur" and "The Kathmandu Post" broadsheet dailies in the southern plains district of Saptari.

Saha received the threat from leaders of the All Nepal National Independent Students' Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) at the district-based Suryanarayan Satyanarayan Multiple Campus. The journalist was threatened in relation to a news report about a protest where ANNISU-R cadres had beaten students affiliated with other unions. "They attempted to attack me twice on December 18," Saha told Freedom Forum's Press Freedom Monitoring Desk in a phone conversation. "They used indecent words against me and even pelted me with bricks." He added that he was lucky to escape, otherwise the outcome of the incident could have been tragic.

According to Saha, the Maoist party has allegedly decided to "take action" against him for his previous reporting. "There is a rumour that they will attack me again because I have never written news that they have been able influence," he said. Saha informed the local police about the incident.

Freedom Forum strongly condemns this incident and asks the authorities to investigate the actions against Saha and punish those found to be responsible. "Attacking a journalist for his writing is an uncivilized action on the part of the Maoist cadres," says Freedom Forum's chair Taranath Dahal. "Since the UCPN-Maoist party is the largest political party in Nepal, it is their duty to respect the constitutional provisions ensuring the right to freedom of reporting on issues of interest to the public."

In a separate case, Freedom Forum is outraged over a December 19 attack on journalist Bal Krishna Sharma, a local correspondent for Sagarmatha Television in Rukum District, a mid-western district of Nepal.

Sharma was attacked by a group of gamblers while he was taking photographs of them. He began taking pictures when he saw the individuals gambling in a public place. Gambling in public places is illegal in Nepal. The youths in question also seized his camera, later returning it but asking him to delete the photographs he had taken of them. They told him he would face severe consequences if the news about the gambling were to be broadcast or printed by the media.

Freedom Forum is deeply concerned over the incident and asks the local authorities to prosecute those responsible for harassing and threatening the journalist. In addition, Freedom Forum calls on the government to provide protection for Sharma until his case has been investigated and brought to a close.

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