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Media targeted as violence escalates in Nepal

Nepali police stand during a cremation ceremony of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Laxman Neupane, who was killed in Monday's protest at Tikapur in Kailali district, in Kathmandu, 25 August 2015
Nepali police stand during a cremation ceremony of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Laxman Neupane, who was killed in Monday's protest at Tikapur in Kailali district, in Kathmandu, 25 August 2015

REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

This statement was originally published on on 21 August 2015.

For the first time in Nepal, a news portal named operated from Kathmandu was been blocked on 19 August 2015 over a story published on the site.The story was written jointly by editor BP Sah and Sanjib Vikram Sah and focused on the death of a local citizen when police fired on a demonstration at Bhardaha of Saptari.

Editor Sah said, "the Deputy Superintendent of Police [DSP] from Saptari called me over the phone on Wednesday morning and asked me to delete the story, arguing that it would foment discord among different communities in the southern plains. The news portal was blocked in the evening even though I published his comments and expressed dissent to the story."

Moreover, local stringer Sanjib was called into the district police station and grilled time and again. "I was also indirectly threatened with facing an arrest warrant," BP added.

In a separate incident, the Office of the Annapurna Post daily was vandalized in the capital city on the night of Wednesday, 19 August. Deputy Editor Chudamani Bhattarai said a number of windows were broken after assailants pelted stones at the office building.

Protestors damage press vehicle, burn newspaper

As the country is making a last ditch effort to promulgate a new constitution, unrest in the southern plains paralysed normal life but also put the media at the receiving end.

Supporters of Tharuhat vandalized a vehicle belonging to the Annapurna Post daily and also set fire to copies of the paper at the Duhabi bazaar in Sunsari district, Biratnagar, on the morning of Sunday 23 August.

According to the daily, the cadres forcefully took the driver out of the vehicle and vandalized it; they then took out papers and burnt them on the street while the police stood by without taking action.

Arson attack on FM Station

Finally, in a separate incident, on 25 August an FM station was set on fire at Tikapur of Kailali, a district in the southern plains of western Nepal.

The local Phulbari FM station run by Resham Chaudhari was set on fire by locals who were irate over the previous day's carnage, when a two-and-a-half year old child and seven police persons were killed.

According to BBC reporter from Dhangadhi, Umid Bagchand, the irate locals, especially the relatives of the slain toddler, Takendra Saud, set fire on the station in an apparent act of vengeance.

Tempers flared on Monday 24 August during an agitation by the indigenous Tharu community who are demanding the creation of an autonomous Tharu province under the country's federalisation. Matters escalated and a number of people were killed, including a senior security security official. The child belongs to the family of slain police person Netra Bahadur Saud.

As the FM station belonged to an indigenous Tharu person, the arson seems like an act of vengeance, Mr Bagchand added.

"Peaceful protest is the people's right, but violent measures are always unwelcome and condemnable. While demanding one's rights, others' rights should also be respected. The arson attack on the media house [seems to be] a result of Monday's violence. It is obviously a violation of press freedom," said Freedom Forum's Chairperson Taranath Dahal, adding that dialogue is the best way to bring the disgruntled parties together.

During this time of tension, Freedom Forum urged political parties and the different factions to refrain from targeting the media. It also cautioned journalists to remain aware of the security situation at all times and safeguard their own safety.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Nepal: Escalating Violence Over Autonomy

    The government should order an independent and impartial investigation into all protest-related deaths and ensure that security forces deployed to restore order remain disciplined and respect basic rights. Leaders on all sides of the debate over increased autonomy should refrain from further violence.

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