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Editorial team threatened, printing press vandalised

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum is seriously concerned over a press freedom violation which occurred in Biratnagar, a city in the eastern plain of Nepal, on June 30, 2012.

Supporters of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in Morang district vandalised the printing press of the Nigarani daily, disabling the operating and vacuum system. As a result of the vandalism, the daily has been closed for three days.

Prior to this, the daily's editorial team was threatened and warned to shut down the paper.

Speaking with the Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, Nigarani executive editor Milan Raut said, "The root cause behind the vandalism and the death threat is a political dispute between the cadres of the Nepali Congress, and Maoist parties in the district."

Executive editor Raut further made it clear that the leader of the Nepali Congress leader in the district, Khadga Fago, is one of the promoters of the newspaper. The Maoists who lost two cadres in a clash with the Nepali Congress political party were acting vengefully by targeting the daily which is linked to Fago.

This is the latest example of how political disputes can interfere and pose a threat to press freedom in Nepal as the media face the repercussions and journalists have become a target.

Freedom Forum, therefore, strongly urges the Nepali Congress, and UCPN-Maoist parties in Morang to address the problem at the political level, and respect press freedom and citizens' right to information. Also, the local administration needs to provide security for the journalists and take action against the vandals so that the daily can resume publication.

In a separate development, Freedom Forum welcomed the fact that police have arrested those who had issued a death threat against journalist Kamalesh Mandal of Saptari district.

Those arrested are Hari Prasad Sharma, Rajan Kumar Sharma and Raj Kumar Saha from Bhramarpur VDC in the district. They were detained by the police on the night of June 22.

Earlier, the bearer of the mobile # 981 789 2788, Chandreshwor Mahashet, had been detained in connection with the threat, which was issued on June 17 via the mobile phone.

Mandal, a reporter with Rajdhani daily and Avenues Television from Mahottari, received the death threat after reporting on a bomb blast in Dhanusha.

The caller had threatened to kill Mandal and destroy everything he had.

Freedom Forum welcomed the arrest of the perpetrators. Such prompt action by the authorities, the organisation believes, helps check the growing impunity and ensure that self-censorship will not continue to grow among journalists. Freedom Forum urges the police administration to take the necessary action against the perpetrators.
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