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Journalists assaulted by police while covering vandalism story

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - 25 April 2011 - Freedom Forum is concerned over the police mistreatment and harassment of journalists.

On 23 April 2011, journalists Chakra Pani Devkota, Sher Bahadur KC, Binod Poudel, Rajesh Acharya, Laxman Sapkota, Chet Kumar Bhattarai and Sridhar Subedi were attacked by police officers while they were covering a story on vandalism and arson in Nepalgunj, a mid-western city in the southern plain of Nepal.

According to journalist Chandra Kanal, who is affiliated with Himalayan Television and witnessed the incident, the reporters were attacked mercilessly by the police even though they were wearing press jackets at the time. The police were in the process of taming a mob of locals who were demanding action against the abductor of a local child and trying to damage the abductor's house. A few of the journalists suffered injuries. Among them was Devkota, who has been undergoing treatment at the TU Teaching Hospitalin Kathmandu for severe head injuries.

In a separate incident, Ramesh Shahi, a reporter for "Rajdhani" daily based in Surkhet, was held for half an hour on 24 April by UCPN-Maoist fighthers. Shahi was covering a clash between local youths and Maoist fighters in Mehalkuna, Surkhet, a hilly district in mid-western Nepal. The Maoist fighters also seized the journalist's camera but returned it after deleting the photographs it contained.

Freedom Forum condemns the actions against the journalists by the police and the Maoist fighters, deeming them attacks on press freedom. The Maoist party, as the largest political party in the country, is urged to instruct its fighters to respect journalists' right to carry out their work.

Freedom Forum also urges the police to put an end to attacks on journalists and to respect the public's right to information.

Finally, Freedom Forum hopes for the speedy recovery of Devkota.

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