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Journalist receives death threat; newspaper offices vandalised; copies of dailies burned

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Amid growing anti-press incidents across Nepal, Freedom Forum has witnessed another press freedom violation as a journalist received a death threat.

In an 11 June 2011 telephone call, an unidentified Hindi-speaking individual issued a death threat against Bijay Chauhan, publisher of the daily "Ankush", which is based in Birgunj, a city in the eastern part of Nepal's southern plain. The threat was linked to a news item the daily published about the involvement of an individual named Pavan Mittal, from Birgunj, in transactions involving fake Indian currency notes. Mittal was arrested by the police and an investigation was launched.

Freedom Forum is gravely concerned about the death threat and urges the government and authorities to take seriously the security of journalists, who are the torch bearers for democracy and the right to information.

In a separate case, on 7 June, individuals who identified themselves as Bhuvan Yakkha Rai, chairman of the Jatiya Kirat Yakkha Chhummae ethnic group in the eastern Nepalese municipality of Dharan, and Basant Rai, from the same group, forcibly entered and vandalised the offices of the daily "Samacharpatra". The attackers said the paper, which is based out of the capital, failed to publish news about their group's activities. They also vandalised the offices of several local newspapers, "Aujar", "Fast Times" and "Blast Times", on the same day. In addition, they threatened Binay Pradhan, a reporter for Avenues Television, in a telephone call, saying he would face dire consequences for failing to provide coverage of the programmes the group has conducted.

Various ethnic groups have been popping up in the countryside and have targeted media outlets and journalists in actions aimed at achieving their objectives.

Freedom Forum has learned that Bhuvan Yakkha Rai was arrested by police on 8 June. The organisation welcomes the arrest and calls on the authorities to apply the appropriate punishment against the perpetrators of these crimes.

Finally, in yet another incident, on 11 June cadres of the Youth Force, a wing of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), burned copies of the national dailies "Nagarik" and "Republica" in Damak, the easternmost city in Nepal's southern plain. They snatched 165 copies of "Nagarik" and 10 copies of "Republica" from the Shrestha Book Centre and Krishna newspaper stall at around 6:00 a.m. and torched the newspapers on the main road. Youth Force cadres also set fire to copies of the national dailies in Jhapa just as protests were taking place in response to an assault by Youth Force cadres on Khilanath Dhakal, a "Nagarik" correspondent in Biratnagar.

Freedom Forum strongly urges the government and authorities to take action against the individuals involved in these anti-press incidents.

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