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Political leaders threaten Nepalese journalist over corruption story

Freedom Forum is concerned over a press freedom violation that occurred in Mugu, an upper hilly district in the mid-western region of Nepal, on June 26, 2013.

Suman Malla, a reporter with the Nayapatrika daily in Mugu, was threatened with physical violence over a news story he wrote on political parties' sharing of the budget of a Village Development Committee (VDC).

Talking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, Raj Bahadur Shahi, a reporter with the Kantipur daily from Mugu, said, "Reporter Malla was invited by Chief District Officer Hira Lal Chadhari to his office where the district leaders of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML [Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist-Leninist] parties grilled him on why he wrote the news story. They threatened him with having his hands and legs broken if he continued to write such reports."

The incident is quite abhorrent in that the political parties which are involved in corruption and misuse of the budget threatened a journalist in the presence of the CDO. Instead of taking action against the political parties involved in the financial irregularities, the CDO encouraged them to grill the journalist.

Journalists play an important role as torch bearers in exposing social and financial malpractices. This is the latest case of political parties threatening a journalist to hide their embezzlement. Such incidents are responsible for sowing self-censorship among journalists, at the detriment of professional journalism.

Freedom Forum vehemently condemns the incident and strongly urges the concerned political parties to respect press freedom and citizens' right to information. In addition, the CDO needs to take the case seriously and take action against those involved in the embezzlement of the VDC budget.

In a separate incident, on July 2, 2013 two officials seized copies of the Okhreni weekly in Sindhupalchowk. The individuals involved were Bal Krishna Basnet, the regional chairman of Tarun Dal, a youth wing of the Nepali Congress party, and Yudhir Poudel, former district secretary of the Nepal Student Union, which is affiliated with the same party.

Yuvraj Puri, a correspondent for the Annapurna daily based in Sindhupalchowk, a district adjoining the capital city, told Freedom Forum that the local leaders of the youth wings of the Nepali Congress- Basnet and Poudel - seized 30 copies of the weekly thereby preventing its circulation. Puri further said the reason for this action was the publication of an article penned by Rishiram Poudel.

The police have detained Basnet and Poudel and are investigating. Freedom Forum condemns the incident, as it is a violation of citizens' right to information and freedom of expression. Despite being cadres of a political party which should abide by democratic principles, they resorted to the undemocratic practice of preventing the circulation of the newspaper.

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