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Journalists harassed by political party cadres in Lalitpur

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum is alarmed over an attack against the media on 14 January 2011 in Lalitpur district, near the capital city, Kathmandu.

The incident occurred during an event organized to resolve a conflict in connection with the Nakhu Corridor, which was constructed to export resources extracted from the Lalitpur stone mines. Reporters from various media outlets had traveled to the area to take part in a press conference organized by a task force of political parties.

Some individuals who had been invited by the political parties tried to intimidate the journalists. They asked local leaders to help them identify which journalists had reported on the stone mines.

The hooligans threatened to carry the journalists on a dump truck and parade them around the streets, according to the "Kantipur" national daily.

As a result, the journalists boycotted the press conference and approached the District Administration Office (DAO) to ask for protection. Soon after the journalists arrived at the administration office, the coordinator of the task force, Madhu Chalise, threatened them saying the coming days would be tougher for journalists to cover news in Lalitpur. Chalise did not specify what action he intended to take against the press.

According to reports, almost all stone mines in Lalitpur are being run illegally and the Nepal Police and Lalitpur DAO are investigating these unlawful operations. It is also public knowledge that the stone mines have become an important source of income for political parties and their cadres in Lalitpur and therefore the operations continue with political backing.

Freedom Forum condemns the incident, labelling it a deliberate attempt to gag the press for exposing wrongdoings. It appeals to the government and the political parties to take concrete action to prevent such activities in the future. "It is shameful on the part of political parties to engage their cadres in flexing muscle against media freedom. The incident is a direct violation of the significant watchdog role journalists play," said Freedom Forum Chairperson Taranath Dahal.

Freedom Forum calls on all parties concerned to create an environment of unencumbered reporting such that journalists are not afraid to report on issues of public concern.

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