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Media threatened, some newspapers closed

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - With the 27 May 2012 deadline of the Constituent Assembly round the corner, various ethnic communities have been exerting pressure on political parties urging them to address their concerns in the new Constitution. Amidst this, some communities have expressed hostility against the media.

Recently, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) threatened to boycott media outlets that negatively report on federalism.

In a memorandum submitted to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) in the capital on May 13, 2012, the NEFIN accused the media of accepting bribes and writing against ethnicity-based federalism.

"It is a very new trend that the media has been forced to give more priority to ethnic federalism, ignoring other proposals," said Freedom Forum. "Although it is natural that media can receive requests to raise issues of public importance, such pressure to write one-sidedly is a violation of press freedom."

The media has the right to report critically on any burning issues such as federalism, ethnicity-based federalism, and other topics related to the Constitution, Freedom Forum noted. Therefore, NEFIN's pressure tactic is an affront on the media and may set the stage for future threats and attacks on the media and journalists in the country. NEFIN is urged to respect people's right to freedom of expression and the media's right to report critically on issues.

Meanwhile, Dharminda Saha, a journalist in the far western region of Nepal-Dhangadhi, received a death threat from an unknown individual on the night of May 12.

In a telephone call, Saha, a reporter with the Samachar daily from Dhangadhi, was threatened and told to stop writing against the banda (general shutdown).

Moreover, Freedom Forum is concerned about people being deprived of the right to information as nearly a dozen newspapers (dailies and weeklies) in the Doti, Baitadi and Dadeldhura districts were closed down due to a shortage of printing papers and other materials triggered by the banda, which has been held in the far western region for over two weeks.

Tekendra Deuba, a reporter with the Annapurna Post daily from Dadeldhura, said that various papers may have ceased publication due to the banda.

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