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Journalist compensated after unfair dismissal

(IFJ/IFEX) - July 23, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) hails the compensation payment finally made to Ram Prasad Dahal following his unfair dismissal from the Rajdhani daily in 2005, as a historic triumph for press freedom in Nepal.

According to information received from IFJ-affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of Nepal (NUJ-N), Dahal met with the Chairman of the media group that publishes the Rajdhani daily on July 18 2012, in the presence of officials from the Bagmati Regional Labour Office in Kathmandu. The amount decreed by Nepal's Labour Court, as compensation due for unfair dismissal, was paid to Dahal after the meeting. The settlement came after the Court stipulated that the media group's assets would be attached in the event of continuing non-compliance with its decree.

Dahal's services as chief reporter with Rajdhani were terminated in March 2005, following which he filed a writ petition with the Court seeking remedy. He believes that he was sacked because of his political beliefs and opposition to the absolute power held by the Nepali monarchy at the time.

In October 2006, the Court found that Dahal had been not been dismissed in bad faith and without adequate cause and ordered Mahendra Sherchan - Chairman of Utkarsha Publications and owner of Rajdhani - to reinstate Dahal to his position and pay him compensation and back wages owed.

The ruling was not honoured and in taking up the matter again this year, the Labour Court imposed a two month prison sentence and a fine of NPR 5,000 (approximately USD 60 at prevalent rates) on Sherchan.

Non-compliance by the media house led to further Court issued penalties including the freezing of its assets. Dahal meanwhile, chose not to pursue the Court order on his reinstatement since he had secured employment elsewhere.

"We welcome the recent settlement which is a major accomplishment for press freedom, journalistic integrity and independence in Nepal", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"We hope that in terms of the judicial interpretations of Nepal's labour laws and the Working Journalists' Act, the principles applied in Dahal's case will become a part of the established law in Nepal".

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