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Three journalists arrested in three weeks in Nepal

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 26 May 2016.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) in expressing serious concerns over the arrests of several journalists in recent weeks in Nepal. The IFJ condemns these arrests and demands an immediate investigation into the rise of arrests of media workers.

On May 23, Shesh Narayan Jha, the chief editor of Sahayatra and the managing editor of the Samayabodh magazine was arrested for photographing a protester in Kathmandu. The protestor was smearing paint on the wall of Singha Durbar, a main government complex. Jha was charged under the Public Offence Act along with the protester. Police claim that Jha accompanied the protester when he earlier smeared paint on the residence of Prime Minister Kahgda Prasad Sharm Oli, on Sunday, May 22, 2016. Following the incident on May 22, police detained Jha and the protester, but they were released with a warning.

In a separate incident on May 23, Chandra Man Shrestha of Nepal Sandesh was arrested. Shrestha was arrested following an article he authored, which allegedly included 'false news' about parliamentarian Gagan Thapa. Nepal Sandesh had issued an apology to Thapa, regarding the article. Shrestha was arrested under the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) and remains in police custody.

The ETA prohibits publication of indecent and illegal materials online. Shrestha is not the first journalist in recent weeks to be arrested under the Act. Manoj Kumar Rai, also known as Bhadragol Kirati, the chief editor of Gaunle, was arrested on Monday, May 8 for publishing material that criticised Bhakta Bahadur Rai, a self-declared religious guru. Rai was held in custody for more than a week before the court released him on bail.

FNJ General Secretary, Ujir Magar, said in a statement: "It's a serious violation of press freedom to arrest a journalist for taking photographs and charge them under the Public Offence Act. The FNJ condemns the arrest in strong words and demands the release of the journalist."

The FNJ said: "There are ways to seek remedy of the news if the subject of the news has complaints against it but to arrest a journalist under a law that shouldn't cover media content is an act against the principle of the constitution and the law. The recent arrests show Nepal's growing intolerance against journalists and the use of non-media laws to harass journalists."

The IFJ said: "The recent arrests raise serious questions about safety for journalists and the state of press freedom in Nepal. We condemn the arrests and urge the Nepali government to ensure that freedom of expression and press freedom is not criminalised."

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