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Journalists harassed, assaulted

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - 27 December 2011 - Freedom Forum is concerned over a number of recent incidents in which media freedom has been violated in Nepal, as well as at the Nepal-India border.

A person named Subash Rai, from the district of Morang, in eastern Nepal, beat up journalist Heman Yatri under the direction of teacher Raj Kumar Rai. The assault was related to Yatri's reporting on a case of domestic violence against a woman.

In a telephone conversation with Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, Yatri, who contributes to the weekly "Naya Sansar", which is published in the district of Sunsari, said, "Subash Rai beat me under the direction of teacher Rajkumar Rai, accusing me of assassinating his (Rajkumar's) character in the reporting I did five months ago on a domestic violence case." He noted that his friends came to his rescue and saved him from being further assaulted, and that he was slightly injured in one eye.

In a separate incident, Sharan Karmacharya and Hem Lata GC, reporters for ABC television in Banke, a district in the midwestern area of Nepal's southern plain, were reprimanded and harassed by Nepalese security personnel, in addition to being harassed by employees at an Indian customs office, while covering a story about the misuse of a government vehicle by an army officer.

"We were covering a story about the misuse of a government vehicle by a senior officer in the Nepalese Army. The officer had gone to India to do some shopping. Captain Bijay Saha and soldier Ismael Khan, who were escorting the officer, manhandled us and tried to seize our camera, saying, 'You must not film without asking the officer,'" Karmacharya told Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk. He added that, while returning to Nepal, Indian customs office employees also tried to delete the footage they had captured.

The involvement of security personnel in a media freedom violation is disconcerting, but instructing officials in a foreign country to intimidate journalists is of even greater concern, says Freedom Forum.

Finally, reporter Rohit Bhandari, and camera operator Jayaraj Thapliya, who work for Mountain Television, were mistreated by the Social Welfare Council personnel while they were covering a story about employee discontent and corruption within the council.

According to Bhandari, Social Welfare Council Director Madan Rimal and Deputy Director Bhagawati Sangraula tried to seize the journalists' camera, and took them into a room where they mistreated them, saying, "Who bribed you to cover news about this office?"

Incidents such as these are responsible for the growing frequency of cases in which journalists censor themselves in Nepal. Freedom Forum calls for these incidents to be fully investigated and for the authorities to respect the work of journalists and the people's right to information.

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