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Arson attack on Nepalese newspaper office, journalists threatened

The office of Tikapur daily published in Dhangadhi, in far-western Nepal, was vandalized and set on fire over the publication of a news report on a road accident on the very first day of the New Year 2014. Moreover the journalists affiliated with the daily were threatened publicly with being attacked over the news story.

Talking to Freedom Forum's media monitoring desk, the editor of Tikapur daily, Bhubaneswor Adhikari, said, "A group led by local resident Arjun Kunwar set the newspaper's office on fire at 10 am over the news the daily published about a road accident."

According to the editor, the publication of five dailies and three weeklies was halted due to the arson. Printing paper worth Rs 85,000 (approx. US$846) was destroyed in the fire. "There is no security for us to walk from our homes now," Adhikari said, adding that there was not any mistake in the news story as they had confirmed the death of one of Kunwar's relatives. However, [Kunwar] unnecessarily committed arson, the editor lamented.

The police have been informed about the arson and have ensured they will take action, the editor added.

Freedom Forum (FF) vehemently condemns the incident which has not only vandalized and set the office on fire but also sown fear among the journalists and forced them to halt the publication of the newspapers. This is a serious violation of press freedom and of people's right to information.

"In its annual report for 2013, FF had noted that there has been some improvement in the state of press freedom. This incident, however, has given a bad signal that does not bode well for the New Year," said FF Chairman Taranath Dahal, adding that press freedom is always in jeopardy in Nepal.

FF, therefore, demands stringent action against the arsonists and urges the local authorities concerned to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the resumption of the newspapers' publication.

It should be noted that as many as 59 press freedom violations occurred in 2013, which was a sharp decline against 2012's 147 incidents. In 2011, FF had recorded 96 press freedom violations.

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