IFJ Condemns Targeting of Nepalese Journalists During Protest Crackdown

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries, has condemned the targeting, arrest and abuse of journalists at yesterday’s protest against the undemocratic rule of Nepal’s King Gyanendra.

At least 33 journalists, including Federation of Nepalese Journalists’ (FNJ) president Bishnu Nisthuri, vice presidents Sanjay Shantoshi Rai and Gangadhar Parajuli, secretary Balaram Baniya and treasurer Hemanta Kafle, were arrested at the protest, which was part of the FNJ’s program to commemorate the anniversary of the February 1, 2005 royal coup (which is now known as The Black Day in Nepalese Media).

Several journalists have also been injured, including FNJ central committee member Ramesh Bista, when police brutally baton-charged the peaceful protesters. Bista is receiving medical treatment at Miteri Hospital for a dislocated knee. FNJ general secretary Mahendra Bista and Ram Hari Silwal were also injured during the protest program, as armed police repeatedly water cannoned the protestors.

Other journalists who were arrested include, Kanak Mani Dixit, Kishor Shrestha, Kedar Koirala, Rupak Adhikari, Roshan Karki, Tirtha Thapa, Narendra Saud, Nanda Rishi Neupane, Mahendra Pande, Rishi Dhamala, Sarla Gautam, Yadev Devkota, Dinesh Karki, Keshev Neupani, Rojan Rai, Bharat Pokhrel, Lilanath Ghimire, Amar Nath Dhakal, Lavdev Dhungana, Krishna Humagain, Bindukanth Ghimire, and Suman Malla.

The detainees were released four hours after their arrest.

Dozens of journalists are also being held by police across the country. In Jhapa, at least 30 journalists are being held at the FNJ branch office premises.

This latest spate of arrests follows a week of turmoil and a nationwide crackdown on journalists and activists in response to the growing tension surrounding the one-year anniversary and the upcoming controversial municipal elections.

“The events of the last 24 hours are appalling and intolerable. The violent intervention of police and the targeting of journalists during peaceful protests is totally unacceptable,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

“In the lead up to the municipal elections on February 8, 2006, the government has proven its assurances of a return to democratic rule are only empty promises,” Warren said.

“These brutal and oppressive actions by the government must not continue, and journalists must be allowed to continue their work independently, without fear, intimidation or abuse,” Warren said.

Warren urged the king to abide by his constitutional obligations and end the chaos in Nepal by restoring “the fundamental democratic rights of the Nepalese people and supporting a free and independent media”.

Warren once again voiced the IFJ’s solidarity with the courageous journalists of Nepal in their fight against tyranny and expressed the IFJ’s unwavering respect and support for the FNJ’s valiant efforts.

For more information on the situation in Nepal please refer to the IFJ report: Nepal One Year On: Censorship, Crackdown and Courage, released on February 1, 2006.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries