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Nepalese citizen receives threat after submitting information request

This statement was originally published on freedomforum.org.np on 5 December 2014.

Maiphujur Kabadiya, a resident of Nepalgunj-10, a city in the mid-western plains area of Nepal, was threatened for seeking information about a local vegetable market committee.

On December 2, 2014, Maiphujur, in line with Clause 3 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, requested some information from the Ranitalau Retailer Vegetables Market Management Committee, such as: audit reports since the establishment of the market, information on and minutes of annual general meetings, names of the office bearers in the committee, and representatives on the committee from the municipality, agriculture service centre, and district agriculture office.

In view of the growing complaints by local citizens against the vegetable market committee, Maiphujur decided to seek out the information. In response, he received a death threat.

Talking to Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk on the morning of December 5), he said, "The chairman of the market management committee, Babu Kabadiya, threatened me just because I requested the information to find out how transparent the committee was." Chairman Babu, who is sticking to the post without holding an annual general meeting of the committee and without maintaining transparent financial records, said he could falsely implicate Maiphujur in any case and ruin his life."

Maiphujur responded that he would inform people about irregularities at the market management committee.

Following the death threat, he filed a complaint at the District Administration Office against Chairman Babu and requested security measures for him and his family.

Freedom Forum spoke to the Chief District Officer in Banke, Bed Prasad Lekhak, and urged him to provide the necessary security measures for Maiphujur, to ensure citizens' right to information was safeguarded.

Individuals at the local and central level pressured the market management committee, highlighting the abuse of rights; subsequently, Chairman Badu telephoned Freedom Forum on December 5, admitted his mistake and committed to providing the necessary information.

Youths in midwestern Nepal have launched an initiative to seek information from public bodies and inform the public about irregularities in the interest of transparency and good governance - Freedom Forum welcomes the initiative. It needs to be continued, as it helps strengthen democracy.

With this growing activism by the youths in the search for information and the sharing of this information with the public in different parts of the country, they have began to face security threats similar to those confronted by reporters. Therefore, the security of the RTI campaigners must be effectively monitored, similar to that of journalists. As such, FF has begun continuous monitoring of the situation of RTI campaigners, as they are also working for freedom of expression and the right to access information.

FF, as an organization working for freedom of expression, right to information, transparency and good governance, condemns the threat against Maiphujur, lauds the information seeker's role and appreciates the acknowledgement and commitment of the market committee Chairman Babu Kabadiya, albeit belated, to abide by the RTI Act and provide information within 15 days.

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