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Journalists plan nation-wide protests after latest attack

(IFJ/IFEX) - June 14, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) extends its support and solidarity to its affiliate, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), as it commences a series of nation-wide actions to protest the latest attack on a journalist in the country.

The events will begin with black-band protests all over the country and an active process of lobbying with national and international human rights bodies for their involvement in addressing the latest attack and the overall climate of impunity that prevails.

All political parties, especially those in the current ruling coalition, will be urged to make public statements about their attitude towards press freedom and the safety of journalists. Interactions with editors in the capital, Kathmandu, and all district towns will be held on June 26, followed the next day by discussions with all major trade unions.

This will be followed by demonstrations outside the Constituent Assembly building in Kathmandu and the principal administrative offices in most districts.

"The IFJ fully endorses the demands the FNJ has placed before Nepali authorities to end the climate of impunity that prevails for attacks on journalists and put in place sound guarantees of physical safety and professional security for news gatherers all over the country," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The FNJ has led this struggle and produced notable victories in the past, principally in the realm of legislation and public commitments by the political leadership. However, the record of implementation leaves a great deal to be desired."

The FNJ protests follow the attack on Khila Nath Dhakal, a correspondent for the Nepali-language daily Naagarak, in Biratnagar, in southeast Nepal. Biratnagar is Nepal's second largest city and part of the extended terai region (or southeastern plains) where competitive politics between different ethnic groups has caused serious security worries for journalists.

Dhakal was attacked on June 5 by a cadre of the Youth Force, an affiliate of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) which heads Nepal's governing coalition. He received several phone calls from Youth Force municipal committee Chairman Rabin Koirala demanding an immediate meeting before the attack. When he presented himself for the pre-appointed meeting, Dhakal was taken to a remote and isolated place by motorcycle and badly assaulted by over ten members of the Youth Force.

The attack is believed to have been in direct retribution for stories published by Dhakal on the involvement of a leader of the Youth Force in Biratnagar district, in certain unlawful activities in recent times.

Following a meeting between the FNJ leadership and Nepal's Prime Minister, Jhala Nath Khanal, two arrests have been made in the attack, though the person who allegedly ordered it is still at large.

Convictions in Uma Singh Murder Welcomed

The IFJ meanwhile welcomes the verdict by the Dhanusha district court in the terai town of Janakpur sentencing two to life in prison for the murder of Uma Singh, a reporter for Janakpur Today and Radio Janakpur, in January 2009. The brutal murder led to nation-wide protests by the FNJ and international expressions of outrage. Local authorities quickly arrested five persons though the individual who allegedly ordered the killing has since remained elusive.

Lalita Singh and Nemlal Paswan have now been found guilty of the murder, while the three other accused, Shravan Yadav, Bimlesh Yadav and Akhilesh Singh, have been acquitted.

"We are encouraged by this verdict, which comes soon after the killers of the journalist Birendra Sah in October 2007 were found guilty and given life sentences by the district court in Bara," Park said.

The IFJ joins the FNJ in urging the Nepali authorities to make all efforts to bring Umesh (alias Swami) Yadav to trial for allegedly ordering Singh's murder.

To read IFJ's capsule report on the killing of Uma Singh, click here
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