The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is appalled by the lack of respect for press freedom in Nepal after a spate of attacks on journalists.
According to an IFJ affiliate, the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), there have been more than 30 incidents involving journalists in the last six months – mainly in rural areas - at the hands of the army, Maoists and police.
“Since Nepalese parliament reconvened in April, some important headway has been made for media freedoms in Nepal. However, journalists continue to be targeted and more must be done to ensure the rights and safety of media workers are protected,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
Maoists threaten journalists
According to the FNJ, Maoist leaders of Morang district, Tulsi Simkhada and Agni Sitaula, threatened the local correspondent of Gorkhapatra and its sister publication, The Rising Nepal, Ambar Khadka, and another journalist, Suman Puri, who were newsgathering on November 15, warning them there would be devastating consequences if they reported on Maoists abducting people for military recruitment.
The FNJ reports that Maoist district secretary, Ashmita, and district-in-charge Pasang, threatened Dambar Singh Rai, a Kantipur correspondent and president of the FNJ, in Khotang after he aired the news about Maoists abducting an army person on Kantipur FM on October 25 and 26.
Other Maoist leaders including the district-in-charge Santosh reportedly had earlier threatened journalists on October 17, claiming that journalists had to be Maoist first to understand news concerning the party.
According to local reports, Maoists accused journalists of spreading negative images of the party, when they reported on campaign donations and other current issues concerning the Maoist party.
Member of parliament threatens to burn down newspaper's office
According to the FNJ, Raj Kumar Chaudhary, a president of the Nepali Congress party of Saptari district, threatened Avadesh Kumar Jha, a Rajbiraj Today correspondent, on November 11 over an article.
Chaudhary reportedly telephoned Jha and threatened to set the newspaper office at Rajbiraj on fire and attack the journalists who worked there. On the same day, he reportedly organised a press conference saying he would make good on these threats if the FNJ did not take any action against the paper.
Television tower seized
According to local reports, Maoists forcibly seized the regional transmission centre of Nepal Television in Kohalpur on October 26 and occupied the premise for more than ten days to establish their military camps, preventing journalists from doing their jobs.
According to the FNJ, Kayakairan National Daily correspondent, Biswa Raj Adhikary, was denied access to information by Loknath Paudel, the executive director of Bharatpur Municipality at Chitwanthe on November 18, when he questioned Paudel about the garbage collection in the city.
According to local reports, Sanjaya Santoshi Rai, a correspondent of Nepal Television and vice president of FNJ, was covering an event as part of the Hindu festival, Tihar, on October 25 when he was assaulted and had his camera taken by an army person.
Television van vandalised
A Kantipur Television van was reportedly vandalised and journalists were harassed on October 17 by a group of businessmen who were angered by news reports regarding a strike called by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI).
Bishnu Bhandari, a journalist with Himchulee FM, was reportedly assaulted in Kaski on October 10.
According to local reports, the attackers broke Bhandari's camera and damaged his recorder and mobile phone when he reached the VDC to collect news. Bhandari reportedly sustained injuries from the attack and was hospitalised at Fewa City hospital at Pokhara and discharged the next day.
The attackers, Britashingh Gurung and Navin Gurung, were later arrested and were released on October 12.
Press freedom challenges remain
Despite a ceasefire and peace talks between Maoists and the new interim government to end Nepal’s decade-long conflict, journalists in the Himalayan kingdom continue to face dangers.
“Although we have witnessed a drop in deliberate attacks on journalists, there have been reports of Maoists remaining intolerant of media criticism,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
"The Maoist party's senior leaders have sworn their commitment to the freedom and security of journalists, and we urge them to keep to their promises," Warren said.
“They are not alone in their bids to censor and control the media. The government of Nepal must act to ensure journalists are protected,” he said.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries
The International Federation of Journalists is a member of the
'International Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom Mission to Nepal',
which includes 15 international organisations specialised in global press freedom issues