Nepal: Union officials arrested protesting job losses

Union leaders from the Nepal Press Union (NPU) and the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) were among nine journalists arrested as they protested job losses in Kathmandu on Monday. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the NPU in deploring the arrests and demands an immediate investigation into the incident.

NPU and FNJ leaders were arrested protesting job losses in Nepal on Monday. Credit: NPU

Journalists were protesting against the sacking of three journalists from Radio Nepal in Doti on Monday. Radio Nepal is the government-owned radio. The three journalists were sacked without any prior notice or administrative work.

NPU and FNJ were demanding the reinstatement of the journalists’ jobs during the protests. At 2pm nine union leaders, including  Ajaya Babu Shiwakoti, NPU general secretary, Ram Prasad Dahal, FNJ secretary, Janmadev Jaisi, Yam Birahi, Min Bam, FNJ central committee, Dilip Paudel, NPU central committee, Chakra Kuwar, NPU Doti Branch Vice President, Yogendra Balayar, FNJ Doti Branch President and Prakash Bam, NPU Doti Branch President were arrested. They were detained for three hours, and released at 5pm.

NPU general secretary Ajaya Babu Shiwakoti said: “NPU condems the removal of three journalists from Doti from their job and demands their immediate restoration into their job. We also demand that government create an environment that is conducive to the freedom of expression, a guaranteed provision in the constitution.

Government is dealing harshly with the working journalists so that they do not feel safe to report against the government independently. Latest detentions of journalists show the intention of the government toward journalists and journalism in Nepal.”

The IFJ said: “The arrest of nine union leaders and journalists for simply protesting the sacking of their colleagues is a deplorable act by Nepali authorities and threatens press freedom and right to association in the country. Journalists in Nepal are working in a volatile environment where they do not feel safe to report. This kind of environment only weakens press freedom and ultimately Nepal’s democracy.”

Update on September 23, 2019:

Federation of Nepali journalist (FNJ), Central Committee has picketed all the broadcasting stations of Radio Nepal in all seven provinces, demanding the reinstatement of the working journalist removed from Radio Nepal Deepayal broadcasting centre. At Kathmandu, Bipul Pokhrel, Vice president of FNJ led the protest. The FNJ has warned the government that it will continue agitating broadcast stations until journalists are reinstated. The  government is taking away the job of journalists on the basis of political faith.

Addressing the protest, Vice President Pokhrel warned the government not to play down FNJ. He said "journalists were fired from the job, and that this act confirmed that the administration and executive director of Radio Nepal were irresponsible.” He said that the expelled journalists should be immediately reinstated, adding that the FNJ would be forced to embark on a more powerful movement.

FNJ General Secretary Ramesh Bista urged the Minister of Communication and Information Technology Gokul  Baskota, who himself was a journalist in the past, to remember that 'we had struggled together'. He warned that the FNJ would go against it if the government moved in a non-democratic manner.

The FNJ has been protesting for reinstatement of Sunita Rawal, Prakash Bam and Chakra Kunwar, who were fired by Radio Broadcasting Development Committee last August. Representatives of different media organizations and a significant number of journalists participated in the program. Central members of FNJ led the protests outside Kathmandu.

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