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Political party supporters attack editor, vandalise media house in Nepal

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum was shocked to learn that some 30 individuals stormed the offices of Nepal Republic Media at Sundhara in the capital city of Kathmandu, on the afternoon of 20 December 2012. Nepal Republic Media is the publisher of the Nagarik and Republica dailies, and Sukrabar weekly.

The assailants, who later claimed they belonged to the Shiva Sena Nepal political party, stormed the office, verbally abused the receptionist, snapped the telephone wire and broke windows.

Talking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, Gyan Neupane, a reporter with Nagarik, said, "The unidentified persons entered the office and began mistreating the gatekeepers and the receptionists; they then attacked the Chief Editor of the Nagarik daily, Kishor Nepal, reporters Sudarshan Sapkota, Rupesh Acharya and Rajendra Gyawali and other staff members."

However, luckily no one was injured as the police arrived on the scene and took control of the situation, said Neupane. He noted that the hooligans questioned the staff about photographs which had been published in Sukrabar.

Freedom Forum vehemently condemns the incident as a sheer violation of press freedom. If the assailants had any reservations regarding the content of the published images, they could have taken legal recourse as an independent body, the Press Council of Nepal, exists and is tasked with monitoring media content.

The way the attack was carried out impacts on journalists' right to professional security and will encourage self-censorship among journalists. Therefore, Freedom Forum strongly demands the concerned authority to bring to book the culprits as soon as possible.

In a separate development, Freedom Forum is dismayed to learn that the government is planning to enforce the media policy-2012 drafted last January.

According to Freedom Forum, this is not the proper time to implement the media policy because there is neither parliamentary nor political consensus in the country. The national political situation is experiencing a rift and there is no congenial atmosphere for an election.

"At a time when there is no new Constitution in the country and the government is being criticized by all sectors for its failure to gain people's confidence, bringing in a new policy without broader consensus would be disastrous," said Freedom Forum Chairperson Taranath Dahal.

By virtue, the government's attention should be focused on framing the main law of the country. Without the promulgation of a new Constitution, there will be no chance for effective implementation of other laws and policies. Moreover, the media policy does not meet international standards; rather it follows a policy of state-control policy over the media which will obviously jeopardize the liberal and democratic media. Needless to mention, the process of drafting this policy lacked multi-sector participation and ownership.

Therefore, Freedom Forum concludes that the present caretaker government should not enforce the media policy at this time. It should ensure that the policy lives to up to international standards and wait for a more suitable time for implementation.

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