IFJ Condemns Increased Police Attacks on Journalists in Nepal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries, is outraged that police forces in Nepal are continuing to target journalists with unwarranted violence and intimidation.

In the latest attack on September 13, police wielding batons assaulted several journalists reporting on a peaceful protest in Bagh Bazar, Kathmandu.

Despite clearly showing his press card, Rupandehi FM journalist, Tilak Mahat, was viciously beaten by police. Mahat was later admitted to Miteree hospital with serious injuries.

A number of other journalists, including photojournalist Suresh Sainju, and journalists Dinesh Bhattarai, Suman Malla and Rupak Adhikari were also injured in the confrontation.

"The ferocity of these continued attacks is horrifying. The government must immediately take firm control of its police force, it cannot shirk responsibility for the actions of its own forces," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

"There needs to be an investigation into what is going wrong in the police force. These assaults on journalists are becoming commonplace and it is completely unacceptable. Those who violate the rights of journalists must be held accountable and prosecuted," said the IFJ President.

"Lawlessness on the part of police cannot continue, the government must restore press rights and uphold the constitution of Nepal," said Warren.

The rally was a peaceful protest against the royal coup of February 1, which saw the government thrown out and King Gyanendra take control.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) described the police attack as a "journalist hunting spree".

Worryingly, the number of journalists who have been beaten and arrested while reporting on or participating in pro-democracy demonstrations has increased dramatically since the beginning of September.

On September 6, Chuli Sandesh editor, Bharat Shahi, Communication Corner journalist, Bhimsen Rajbahak, weekly Jana Sangharsa reporter, Kamal Pariyar, Himalayan Times photographer Rodan Rai, and Nepal One TV cameraman, Gyanendra Sharma were assaulted by police at a rally.

Shahi suffered serious injuries and was rushed to Bir hospital after being beaten over the head with batons and brutally kicked by both uniformed and plainclothes police officers.

On the previous day, police beat a dozen journalists covering a demonstration in Kathmandu that called for an "end to the dictatorship". Majdur Aawaj editor, Satyaram Parajuli, was seriously injured in the attacks.

On September 9, as many as 34 writers and journalists were arrested for taking part in a demonstration calling for greater freedom of expression in Bhotahiti, Kathmandu. They were released after being held for six hours at Mahendra police station.

The IFJ is gravely concerned that police attacks on journalists are indicative of the Nepalese government resistance to the restoration of press freedom and a return to democracy.

For more information about the Nepal crisis visit www.ifj-asia.org/page/nepalcrisis.html
For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries