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Contempt of court case and death threat mark World Press Freedom Day in Nepal

A Nepalese woman carrying a basket returns home after working in an agricultural field in Khokana, Lalitpur District, Nepal, 26 September 2016
A Nepalese woman carrying a basket returns home after working in an agricultural field in Khokana, Lalitpur District, Nepal, 26 September 2016

AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha

This statement was originally published on nepalpressfreedom.org on 7 May 2017.

A reporter for Nagarik daily, Shivahari Ghimire, received a death threat issued by the president of the Saraswati Community Forest Conservation Committee on 3 May 2017, World Press Freedom Day. The threat stemmed from a news story on massive illegal deforestation in Lalitpur, which was published on 1 May in Nagarik daily. Lalitpur is a district located in the southern belt of the Kathmandu Valley.

Talking to Freedom Forum, reporter Ghimire explained, "After two days of news stories on illegal deforestation, the President of the Community Forest Preservation Committee, Raj Kumar Shrestha, and the Lalitpur Forest Officer, Prem Chanda Shah, threatened me over the phone."

"On 6 May as well, they called me on my mobile and said, either I should apologize for writing news stories against them or they won't spare me when I walk in the Lalitpur area," he added.

Ghimire confirmed that his articles were based on fact and investigation. But the Forest Office in Lalitpur seems to be under pressure with the release of this news, and that is why they are denying the facts and trying to deflect the news story by any means possible. A complaint has been lodged at the Metropolitan Police Office, Kathmandu, providing information about the threat.

Freedom Forum seriously condemns this incident, which is sheer intimidation and an attack on journalists' right to freely report. It is worrying that the government officials are still not receptive to media freedom. Hence, Freedom Forum strongly urges the concerned authority to stay informed and to prevent any attack on the journalist.

In the meantime, Freedom Forum also expressed its concern over a contempt of court case filed against Nepal's vernacular Kantipur daily on 2 May, the eve of World Press Freedom Day, over a news story it published.

The news story was published on 24 April and referred to the lack of information on the educational attainment of the senior most Justice Gopal Parajuli in the judicial body. The case was filed by advocate Santosh Bhandari at the apex court. With the suspension of Chief Justice Sushila Karki, senior most justice Gopal Parajuli has become the Acting Chief Justice. On the application, advocate Bhandari stated that such a misleading news story on the judiciary defamed the court and the Justice department.

The Supreme Court has started hearing the case.

Freedom Forum condemns the filing of contempt of court case, because it is against press freedom. FF therefore urges the Supreme Court to respect journalists' right to free reporting. Only balanced relations between the media and judiciary can ensure that democracy is effective and functional.

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