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Nepalese journalist threatened over timber smuggling report

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum is concerned over two press freedom violations. The first incident occurred in Gorkha, a hilly district in western Nepal, on 3 November 2012.

A timber entrepreneur issued a death threat against Ramesh Bista, a reporter for Radio Gorkha, over a report by Bista aired on the local station over a recent case of timber smuggling.

Speaking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, Bista said, "Timber entrepreneur Man Bahadur Poudel phoned me at night and issued a death threat."

"You've no right to live now, because you reported on the timber [situation]," said the caller over the telephone.

Freedom Forum condemned the threat as a violation of press freedom. Such incidents tend to encourage self-censorship among journalists, which in turns jeopardises the practice of a free and fair journalism.

Freedom Forum strongly urged the local authorities to detain Poudel and take action.

In a separate incident, which occurred in the southern plain of Nepal on 6 November, copies of newspapers were set on fire by supporters of the Madhesi Students' Forum (Democratic), a student wing of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic). The party is led by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Minister.

The party cadres set fire to copies of national and local dailies at Bhanu Chowk in Janakpur city, angered over the fact that the newspapers had not adequately covered the students' district convention.

Speaking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, Briz Kumar Yadav, editor-in-chief at the local Janakpur Today daily said, "The Minister's cadres burnt copies of the Kantipur daily, Annapurna Post daily, and local dailies such as Janakpur Today, Jagaran Nepal, Mithila Dot Com, Daily Express, and Tahalka Dot Com." The Students' Forum did not provide information to the media about its convention but suddenly decided to take this action and set fire to the papers, he added.

According to Freedom Forum, the incident indicates that even cadres of a major political party are hostile towards the media. Even though the government says it honours freedom of expression, supporters of the ruling leaders opted for this aggressive action. It is also an indication that the political party of the Deputy Prime Minister wants to keep the media under its control.

Freedom Forum condemns the incident, and urges the DPM to educate his party cadres and student wing about the value of press freedom and freedom of expression.

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