Several journalists in Nepal were attacked, either while covering a protest by students or in connection with a news story.
Journalist attacked during student protest
Nikesh Baral, a journalist associated with www.ujyaalopradesh.com (an online news portal) was assaulted by the political party’s student wing in Sundar Haraicha of Morang on 29 March. Baral was assaulted while taking videos of the protest organized by the Nepal Student Union. Morang district lies in Province 1 of Nepal.
According to Freedom Forum’s representative for Province 1, Bikram Niroula, the hooligans attacked and assaulted the journalist even after he disclosed his identity as a journalist.
Journalist Baral sustained injuries to his head and hands and even his mobile phone was damaged.
Freedom Forum condemns the incident as it is a sheer violation of press freedom and the freedom of journalists. Journalists have every right to report on the incidents relating to public issues and have the right to cover and capture such incidents. Journalists on duty should not be assaulted. FF urges the concerned authority to take action against the perpetrators and ensure the safety of journalists in the area.
Journalists attacked in Palpa
Journalist duo Rajesh Aryal and Bijay Kumar Baudel were attacked by locals in Tansen Municipality, Palpa on 29 March. Palpa is a hilly district situated in Province 5.
Aryal and Baudel are the station manager and a reporter at the community radio Madan Pokhara respectively.
Freedom Forum’s representative for Province 5, Sudeep Gautam, reported that the journalists were attacked by locals for broadcasting a news item on the municipality’s decision to extend the road from Holangdi to Dhungakhani in Tansen. The locals, who were protesting against the proposed extension project outside the Municipality office, not only attacked the journalists but also threatened to kill them.
Following the incident, Nepal Police arrested Baburam Bista, Laxman Regmi and Sailendra Bhattarai for their alleged involvement in the attack.
An attack upon journalists merely because of their reporting is condemnable. Nepal’s constitution itself, guarantees journalists’ right to free reporting on the issues of public concern and the public should also cooperate with them to ensure the free flow of information. Had they any objection over the news content, they could have chosen a legitimate way to express this. Hence, FF strongly urges the concerned authority to address the issue seriously and calls on citizens to be aware of the rights of a free press and journalists.
Security officials abuse journalist
Journalist Shailendra Mahato Kranti, who reported on a story about the leakage of a Secondary Education Examination (SEE) question paper, was tortured by security officials on 29 March in Janakpur. Janakpur lies in the southeastern region of Nepal in Province 2.
Kranti who is associated with the Ujjyalo Network and Todaypati.com online had covered the news regarding the leakage of a Science and Social Studies SEE question paper before the examination. Following this, the journalist was called by security officials for interrogation at the Dhanusa District Police Office and he was kept forcefully in police custody for 5 hours on Saturday.
While talking with Rajan Singh, Freedom Forum representative from Province 2, Kranti said, “I was asked many questions regarding the coverage of the SEE leaked question paper and I was told not to publish such news which tarnishes the image of the government.”
Further the journalist added, ”Now onward, I am no longer able to write news, how I used to write. I am discouraged.”
On Thursday, the Science question paper was leaked a day before an examination in Saptari and following that, the Science examination was canceled throughout Province 2. Again, on Friday, a Social Studies question paper was leaked through social networking sites in Janakpur.
Freedom Forum condemns the incident which violated journalists’ right to free reporting. A journalist being tortured merely for writing news is not acceptable. FF urges the concerned authority to respect journalists’ right to free reporting.