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Freedom Forum condemns break-in at newspaper office, attack on journalists

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum is concerned over a robbery which occurred at the offices of a weekly in the capital city of Kathmandu.

A group of thieves broke into the office of the "Dristhti" weekly on the night of 6 March 2012 and stole some of the computer hardware, said the National News Agency (RSS), quoting the weekly's editor, Shambhu Shrestha.

The sources further said the assailants took off with a hard disk containing all of the weekly's documents. However, all other documents in the office were untouched.

The robbery appears to have been a coordinated event. It has obviously disrupted the newspaper service, thereby depriving people of their right to information.

Freedom Forum urges the concerned authorities to investigative the incident and bring the culprits to book.

In a separate incident, Rajan BK, a journalist in Sindhuli, a district in the central hilly region of Nepal, was attacked and injured on the evening of 7 March.

BK, district reporter with the "Abhiyan" daily and director of the local "Janboli Sandesh" daily, was assaulted with a baton and stones by individuals who were inebriated.

Talking to Freedom Forum's media monitoring desk, the journalist said, "While I was taking pictures of the people celebrating the Holi festival in my locality, some people attacked me from behind with a baton and stones. I received a severe injury to my head. They used foul words against me and my work."

BK had to have six stitches on his head. He informed Freedom Forum that he would travel to Kathmandu for further treatment.

On the night of 7 March, the Sindhuli district police arrested four members of the same family - Man Bahadur Shrestha, 60, and his sons, Dev Narayan Shrestha, Rewan Shrestha, and Bikash Shrestha from Kamalamai Municipality-5 - for their involvement in the attack.

Freedom Forum lauds the prompt action of the police to nab the assailants and calls for rigorous action on journalists' attackers as a general rule. Punishing the culprits helps deter self-censorship among journalists, and prevent impunity. The organisation also hopes for a speedy recovery by the injured journalist.

Finally, photojournalist Sher Bahadur Khadka was also attacked on 7 March. The incident occurred in a district in the far western region of Bajura.

Two inebriated persons, one of whom is named Bhakta Bahadur Budha, seized the journalist's camera as he was trying to photograph at the Atichaur VDC (village development committee).

Khadka, who is affiliated with Radio Bajura, told Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk that the two men harassed him and asked him why he was taking photographs.

Freedom Forum condemns the incident as a violation of press freedom, as the journalist's right to report on a public program and the people's right to receive the information was curtailed.

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