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Journalist receives death threat

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - A death threat issued against journalist Umesh Mehta on 2 April 2012 has come to Freedom Forum's attention. Mehta reports for the Popular FM station, based in Itahari, in eastern Nepal.

Mehta received the threat after reporting on an attempt by a local individual named Shyam Lal Mehta to sway voters by hosting a feast. Shyam Lal Mehta was running for chairman of the management committee of a local Janata Higher Secondary School.

Talking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, journalist Umesh Mehta said, "Shyam Lal said to me over the phone, 'I'll attack and kill you and damage the FM station. Why did you report on me?'"

The journalist noted that Shyam Lal Mehta is also a village level leader of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) party.

The police administration has been informed about the threat. Freedom Forum condemns the incident and urges the police administration to provide security for the journalist and punish the culprit. Also, the concerned party needs to be aware of journalists' rights and the people's right to receive information.

In a separate development, Freedom Forum condemns a press freedom violation that occurred in Bajura, a district in the far western region of Nepal, on 29 March 2012.

Nimendra Shahi, a district reporter with the National News Agency (RSS) Nepal, was beaten by locals at Bandhu VDC in the district while he was returning home after covering a story.

Quoting the reporter, the RSS said the assailants - Tekendra Karki, Basanta Adhikari and two others - attacked Shahi saying, "Why are you boasting with your camera in the name of being a journalist?"

Shahi received injuries to his eyes and forehead. Moreover, his purse and mobile set were looted by the assailants. He has been undergoing treatment at a local health centre in the district, the RSS added.

The police have detained two of the people involved in the attack and are searching for the others.

The incident demonstrates that reporters are coming under attack by individuals from various walks of life who disregard the journalists' rights. Freedom Forum calls for prompt action by the police administration and expresses concern that unpunished assaults sow fear among journalists and may result in self-censorship.

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