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Nepalese film festival pressured not to screen Sri Lankan documentaries

The organizers of a film festival in Nepal were pressured not to screen three Sri Lankan documentaries in a festival that kicked off in the capital city of Kathmandu on October 3, 2013.

Film Southasia, a festival of documentaries from seven South Asian countries, was underway when the pressure came from the Sri Lankan government, reports Kantipur, a Nepalese national daily, quoting the Chairman of the festival, Kanak Mani Dixit.

Freedom Forum expresses concern over the incident and the suppression of freedom of expression.

It is worth noting that Article 19 (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or any other media of his choice."

Freedom Forum expresses its support for this provision of the ICCPR and urges Sri Lanka not to pressure the Nepali authority to ban the screening of the films.

Similarly, the Kathmandu Post national daily reports, "FSA protests this unwarranted intrusion into the cultural sphere, an action that goes against freedom of expression and the right of documentary filmmakers to exhibit their work,” festival chairman Dixit said.

According to the organizers, the Ministry of Information and Communications in Nepal issued a directive to them to not show the documentaries.

The films in question are Broken and The Story of One directed by Kannan Arunasalam and No Fire Zone by Callum Macrae.

These films document the civil war and the atrocities committed during the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Freedom Forum urges the Nepalese authorities and the Sri Lankan government to respect international standards on freedom of expression and the right to information and to instill a democratic culture.

Journalist harassed, barred from reporting

On October 1, Purna BK, a reporter with ...Kantipur daily from Tanahu, a hilly district in the western region of Nepal, was harassed and verbally abused while he was reporting on an incident of ethnic discrimination. He was manhandled by a local resident named Surendra Adhikari in Damauli, Tanahu.

Talking to Freedom Forum's media monitoring desk, reporter BK said, "When I reached Damauli to report on the ethnic discrimination, Surendra Adhikari said, 'you journalists don't need to write about this issue. You only exaggerate discrimination'."

The reporter further said Adhikari had used foul language in addressing him.

In a separate incident, sports journalists were barred from entering a stadium to cover boxing and football competitions in the capital city on September 25. A dozen journalists were barred from entering the stadium even though they showed their identity cards along with a pass issued by the football association.

Freedom Forum condemns both of these incidents which are a violation of press freedom and citizens' right to information. Freedom Forum therefore urges the concerned authorities and the individual involved not to violate people's fundamental right to press freedom and information.

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