Radio Attack Renews Concern For Safety Of Journalists In Nepal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned about the safety of journalists and media workers in Nepal after a bomb was thrown at a radio station, Indreni FM 97.6, in Birgunj in central Nepal on January 30.

The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), an affiliate of the IFJ, reported that an unidentified group hurled a bomb at the premises of the radio station about 8pm. No one was injured.

The Broadcasting Association of Nepal (BAN) said the attack was intended as a threat to the station for its vocal support of democracy and social welfare issues. It believed the attack may be linked to Indreni FM’s coverage of a mass meeting organised on the same day by the Seven Party Alliance in preparation for the Constitutional Assembly elections scheduled for April 2008.

The incident is the latest in a series of attacks on media during January, with at least 15 journalists or media workers attacked since the beginning of 2008. The earlier attacks, reportedly committed by civilians, highlight a worrying trend where journalists are being targeted by individuals or groups reacting angrily to the content of news reports.

Freelance journalist Manoj Sah was attacked by an armed group of 12 people in the Chamar region of Janakpur on January 17. According to the FNJ’s Dhanusha chapter president, Ashok Rauniyar, the attack was believed to be linked to an article by Sah in the local daily Bishwojagaran about a controversy regarding the Janaki Temple. Sah’s attackers struck his wrist repeatedly with a sharp weapon. Although Sah was seriously injured, the IFJ is pleased to clarify that his hand was not severed, as reported in an alert issued on 23 January.

In a separate incident, the FNJ reported that Rajendra Gautam, a sub-editor with the Purbanchal Daily, was assaulted by chicken farmers on January 25. The farmers were reportedly upset about an article in which Gautam reported there was bird flu in Western Bengal, India, near the border with Nepal. Gautam was dragged out of his office, beaten and suffered chest pains following the attack.

On January 23, at least 11 journalists were reportedly assaulted during public protests in Kathmandu against increased fuel and oil prices. The FNJ reported that journalists including Maina Dhital from The Kantipur Daily and Anjali Subedi from The Kathmandu Post were harassed and beaten while driving through the protest. According to the FNJ, Dhital was deliberately targeted by the protesters. She could be identified as a journalist because of her yellow “press” jacket and “press” stickers on her motorcycle.

Ananta Raj Luintel and Dewan Rai of The Himalayan Times, Rajan Raj Joshi, of Annapurna Post, Madhav Nirdoshi, chairman of Hatemalo Media Services, and Lomus Joshi, from Independent Business News, also reported being harassed by demonstrators.

The IFJ is worried by the nature of these attacks as members of the public appear to be holding journalists and media institutions responsible for reporting information with which they either disagree or which otherwise upsets them. Journalists already face the danger of being targeted by organised groups, as allegedly occurred in the murder of Pushkar Shrestha, the editor of New Highway and New Season, who died on January 10. Responsibility for Shrestha’s death was claimed by representatives of the Jwala Singh faction of the Janatrantrik Terai Mutki Morcha (JTMM-J), an armed group fighting for independence for the Terai region in southern Nepal.

“The IFJ is very concerned that the frequency of attacks on journalists and media institutions appears to be increasing in the lead-up to Nepal’s elections for a Constituent Assembly, set for 10 April,” the IFJ’s Asia-Pacific Director, Jacqueline Park, said.

“Violence against journalists because of their reports on issues of concern to the public is a distinct threat to press freedom in Nepal and seriously undermines journalists’ ability to provide independent and impartial coverage of the election as well as daily events.”

The IFJ joins the FNJ in condemning the bombing of Indreni FM and other anti-media attacks. It strongly urges Nepal’s Government, security officials and local authorities to take action to investigate and bring to justice those responsible.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries