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Displaced journalists continue to receive death threats

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum expresses serious concern over the continued press freedom violations in Nepal. Most recently, two journalists working at daily newspapers in Morang district, eastern Nepal, have left their places of work due to death threats issued against them because of their reporting.

Arjun Jamneli Rai, a correspondent for "Aujar" daily, and Bibek Bhattarai, a correspondent for "Janabidroha" daily, received threats via mobile telephones stating that they would both be killed within days. The caller accused the journalists of obstructing the work of an illegal mining operation in Sunjora River in Morang. The news report of the illegal activity was published a week before the threats were issued. Both journalists ceased work at their respective papers on 6 February 2011, the same day that an editorial on the story was published in "Aujar". Rai has been given police protection in Biratnagar, the district headquarters, while Bhattarai is in hiding in Pathari, Jhapa. Both journalists are still receiving death threats through SMS messages.

In a separate incident, some youths interfered with the distribution of "Aujar" daily on 6 February, a week after it published the news of the illegal mining activity at Sunjora River. The orders to obstruct distribution of the paper reportedly came from Kishore Rai, the local leader of the CPN-UML, the ruling party. Rai allies, including Sajan Dhimal, seized bundles of the newspaper ready for distribution. After rights activists and civil society members pressured local authorities, police in Morang took the newspapers back and handed them over to the "Aujur" team.

Freedom Forum condemns these serious press freedom violations. The Forum views the involvement of political leaders in such activities as a further serious matter.

The Forum calls on the government to guarantee the safety of both journalists and urges all parties to cooperate in creating a friendly environment for press freedom. Finally, the Forum calls on the government to take legal action against all those involved in such acts of press freedom violation.

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