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Nepalese journalists come under fire over critical reports

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Hiranath Khatiwada, personal secretary to a government minister, has issued a death threat against reporter Nirajan Poudel over a news report.

Poudel, a reporter with the Karobar daily from Nuwakot, a district near the capital city, received the death threat by Khatiwada, secretary to the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Post Bahadur Bogati. The threat was linked to Poudel's reporting on the alleged misuse of the minister's vehicle by his secretary.

According to Poudel, the personal secretary grabbed him by the neck and said, "I'll finish you since you wrote a news story about me."

Freedom Forum condemns the incident and demands that action be taken again Khatiwada. It is quite abhorrent that an individual in such a highly responsible position connected to a ministry can easily attack and threaten journalists flouting the rules.

In a separate incident, the offices of the Naya Bikalpa weekly were vandalised in the capital city on the night of 13 December 2012.

However, it is yet to be established if the motive for the attack was related to press freedom. Freedom Forum condemns the incident and strongly urges the concerned administration to find the culprit and mete out justice.

Finally, Freedom Forum was dismayed to learn that Suman Malla, in charge of Radio Mugu, was held and questioned by the district police over a news report aired on the FM station.

The incident took place on 14 December in Mugu, a mountainous district in the Midwestern region of Nepal.

Talking to Freedom Forum's media monitoring desk, Malla said, "A few days back, we broadcast a story about the growing supply of illegal weapons and the use of children in this practice in the district. But the district police was angered by this. I was held at the district police office for five hours."

According to Malla, the police officers also threatened him with a legal case. "Why did you air the news without our consent," a police officer asked him in an intimidating manner.

Moreover, he was singled out from among a group of colleagues and grilled about the fairness of his journalism.

The concerned authorities need to acknowledge the independence of the media. This harassment is detrimental to independent media, said Freedom Forum. "The government must investigate the case because the police's intervention and harassment of a journalist, reminiscent of practices carried out under the emergency period in Nepal, demonstrates government officials' sheer lack of knowledge about a free press and the right to information. It has badly nipped in the bud the practice of fair journalism in a remote district of Nepal," noted Taranath Dahal, Chairperson of Freedom Forum.

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