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Two Nepalese journalists receive threats; activist denied information

On 23 January 2014, two journalists received death threats in connection with their news reporting in Mahottari, a district in the central region of Nepal's southern plain.

The editor of Bardibas daily, Santosh Pokhrel, and Gita Chimoriya, a reporter with Radio Darpan, were threatened by two locals named Buddhiraj Neupane and Devraj Kafle over a news report about a road accident.

Talking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, Chimoriya said that Neupane and Kafle barged into the office of Radio Darpan and told me, "Are you the one reporting on the road accident? Why did you cover that? We will finish you at any time."

She added that they swore at her and then left the station.

When asked whether there was any question about the content of the news story, Chimoriya said she had reported on the accident based on police information. So there was not any misleading content, she argued.

Pokhrel was threatened in a telephone call by the two men over the same story.

Meanwhile, as per the complaints filed by the journalists to the local police administration, Neupane and Kafle were arrested by the police. However, the political parties in the district are reported to have piled pressure on the police to release the men.

Freedom Forum condemns the incident as it egregiously violated journalists' right to work in a safe atmosphere. Although it appreciates the fact that the police officers apprehended the two men following the complaint, the political pressure to release them is quite abhorrent. FF therefore strongly urges the political parties to respect the right to free flow of information and an informed citizenry, both key elements of a democratic culture. The press freedom violators must be meted out action as per the law.

Concern over denial of information, mistreatment of RTI activist

In a separate development, Freedom Forum is concerned over the harassment of a local right to information (RTI) activist by a school principal. The incident occurred while activist and journalist Shailendra Mahato was seeking information in Dhanusha, a district in the southern plain of Nepal, on 21 January 2014.

The principal of the local Bateshwor Lower Secondary School of Bateshwor VDC-6 in Dhanisha district, Ganga Prasad Mahato, insulted Mahato and refused to provide the information the journalist sought about the school.

The RTI activist told Freedom Forum that he went to the school with an application seeking information on a number of things: the school's financial condition, physical properties, teachers' quota and the process of appointing teachers, reservation quota, number of students, the distribution of scholarships, etc. The principal flatly rejected to register his application and spoke foul words at him.

"Who are you to seek information about this school? I don't give any information. If you publish information, you will see how I take action against you. I don't know about RTI. Who has given you the authority to seek information?" the principal told Mahato.

Principal Prasad has violated citizens' right to information. RTI as a fundamental right of Nepali citizens is ensured by the Constitution. Any information of public importance can be sought from public agencies by any citizen. Therefore, Freedom Forum strongly urges the principal to abide by the RTI Act 2007 and provide the information the activist sought.

Disclosing information not only makes any public agency transparent and accountable to people, but also empowers citizens and helps create an informed society.

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