Arrest of Journalists Leaders in Nepal an Affront to Journalists Globally, Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has written today to the Prime Minister of Nepal expressing extreme concern over the mass arrests of Nepalese journalists last weekend, including the leadership of one of Nepal’s leading journalists’ organisations.

The IFJ, the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is extremely concerned over the arrests of 73 journalists in Nepal at two separate incidents.

“Arresting journalists for protesting in support of press freedom demonstrates the negligible value that the Government of Nepal places on achieving a free and independent press,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren today.

“And arresting leaders of journalists’ organisations is an affront to all journalists not only in Nepal, but globally,” said Warren.

These two events follow a number of incidents where journalists and media organisations have been targeted with violence and harassment in attempts to censor.

On 16 April 2004, 47 journalists were arrested by security forces and taken to the police station in Singhadurbar. The journalists were arrested while reporting the protests in the Ratnapark area. The protests, involved the five political parties calling for King Gyanendra to return political power to an elected parliament.

On Saturday 17 April, a further 13 journalists were arrested when protesting the arrests of their colleagues on the Friday. The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) organised the protest rally involving hundreds of journalists, as the first stage in their campaign against the Government’s attack against the press. The arrested journalists were taken to the Armed Police Force headquarters in Halchowk, Swayambhu.

The journalists who were arrested on Saturday included senior journalists and past presidents of FNJ, Mr. Govinda Biogy, Mr. Hari Har Birahi and the present President Tara Nath Dahal. Mr. Bishnu Nisthuri the Secretary General of FNJ was also arrested. Whilst in detention the journalists were denied access to food, water and medical attention.

The IFJ has condemned the actions of the Government of Nepal and called for the immediate release of any remaining detained journalists and an immediate commitment by the Government to cease and desist such hostile actions.

“The continued pattern of using violence and intimidation to target journalists and media organizations is unacceptable, “ said Warren

“We must not and will not let it stand,“ said Warren.

This latest incident follows several recent incidents including:

  • On 2 April, Shiva Lamsal, president of the Nepal Press Union’s Kathmandu section, and special correspondent for the Nepal One Television network, was harassed and verbally abused by Police Inspector Birendra Basyal in Naya Baneswar whilst reporting on the protest of the five major political parties against King Gyanendra’s policies.

  • On 3 April, a group of students seized and damaged the camera of Dipendra Badwal, journalist for Kantipur publications. Baduwal was photographing a public bus whose tires had been set on fire in Butwal, western Nepal.

  • On 22 February Laxmi Pandey, journalist and member of the Nepal Press Union, was arrested and held in custody for four days for investigations she was undertaking.

  • On 18 March the Radio Nepal building and transmitting station in Pawanipore, Bara district was destroyed when CPN-Maoist rebels detonated bombs in the building and transmitting station. The bomb attack rendered 1,000 telephone lines inoperable and denied more than 700,000 people access to radio programming in Bara district, denying rural residents access to any news and current affairs.

    The IFJ in separate letters to the CPN-Maoists and to the Government of Nepal have condemned the actions of the security forces and the Maoists and have called on both parties to discontinue to targeting the media with violence.

    “Violence is the worse form of censorship, it is unacceptable for the rebels, Government and police to use violence to attempt to stifle the voice of the media, intimidation and fear must not be allowed to continue within the culture of Nepal,” said Warren.

    “Press freedom is the cornerstone of democracy, it is imperative that journalists be free to fulfil their professional responsibilities - democracy demands it,” said Warren.

    For further information, please contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668

    The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries