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Journalists detained after protesting government's proposed restrictions

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum is gravely concerned by an incident that occurred in Dhankuta, an eastern hilly district, on 29 January 2012.

Security personnel detained 36 journalists for four hours, while they were covering a program attended by the Prime Minister. The journalists wore black armbands to symbolise their peaceful protest against the recent classification of information by the government.

In the name of protecting information, the government has instructed all ministries to keep 140 types of information confidential, an obvious violation of people's right to information (RTI).

At a time when the country was gradually gaining ground with regards to RTI, this latest government measure will promote corruption and malpractice, says Freedom Forum.

Moreover, by detaining the journalists, the police violated press freedom and deprived citizens of their right to receive information in a timely fashion. The journalists were trying to peacefully express their protest against the government's move to classify certain information. The media was covering the program attended by the Prime Minister, who is responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, including journalists.

"This shows how irresponsible the administration is towards press freedom, which is a necessary element of a democratic state. At the same time, the government is trying to claw back on RTI laws, thereby being non-transparent in its behaviour," said Freedom Forum Chairman Taranath Dahal.

Freedom Forum condemns the incident and urges the Prime Minister to remain vigilant about people's right to information and respect journalists' right to report and peacefully protest against administrative policies. The security personnel should also be sanctioned accordingly.

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