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Are political activists, especially Maoists, disregarding press freedom pledges?

Published on Friday 12 June 2009.
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Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the enormous difference between what Nepal’s political activists, especially members of Maoist organisations, say about the safety of journalists and what they actually do.

“What is the Maoist Party doing to rein in those of its activists who use violence to intimidate Nepalese journalists?” Reporters Without Borders asked. “During a recent visit by the International Mission to Nepal, in which we took part, the leading political parties gave clear undertakings to defend the freedom and safety of journalists. These undertakings must be respected as a matter of urgency as the cases of violence are growing. Political leaders must disown and punish all use of violence.”

In one of the latest cases, Maoist activists yesterday intercepted a vehicle carrying thousands of copies of the Kathmandu Post and Kantipur dailies to the western city of Bhairahawa and set fire to the newspapers. Maoists destroyed a newspaper distribution truck in the same region on 6 June.

Death threats were made against four journalists by local leaders of the Young Communist League in the western Lamjung District earlier this week.

Members of the Joint Struggle Committee for Newa Autonomous State (JSCNAS), who are staging a strike, attacked five journalists this week in the Kathmandu valley, including photographer Vikas Karki of the newspaper Republica. They also destroyed two vehicles belonging to state-owned Nepal Television and Image Channel TV.

Reporter Ghanashyam Paudel of the local newspaper Sudoor Sandesh was kidnapped and roughed up on 23 May in the western Kailali District after criticising the felling of 300 trees. The newspaper’s editor told Reporters Without Borders that Paudel was told he would be killed if he did not leave the district.

Members of the Nepali Congress Party roughed up Dil Bahadur Adhikari, the editor of the local Loktantra Dainil newspaper, on 20 May in the central Chitwan District.

Three journalists were attacked and injured by members of the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum, a political party, while it was holding a meeting in the capital on 15 May. The police arrested two of the assailants.

A local Maoist Party official threatened to “break the arms and legs” of Birendra KC, the correspondent of the national daily Kantipur in the western Arghakhanchi District, on 12 May after he reported that the Maoists had devised a plan to drive other political activists out of the district. Maoist Party officials have denied making any threat but Birendra still believes he is in danger.

Maoist activists surrounded the headquarters of Image Channel TV in the capital on 5 May after it reportedly aired an old video in which Maoist leaders evaluated the strength of the People’s Army.

Baidyanath Yadav, the Avenues Television correspondent in the eastern Saptari District, was attacked on 5 May by supporters of then education minister Renu Kumari Yadav, a member of the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum, after he reported information that embarrassed the minister.

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