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Journalists flee workplaces following threats, various journalists attacked, two issued death threats as social agitation continues; FNJ denounces indifference of authorities

(FNJ/IFEX) - Following the threats made by supporters of the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) on 28 January 2007 in Birgunj, a mid-western city of Nepal, over a dozen local journalists left their workplaces, fearing for their safety.

According to the daily "Kantipur", during the night of 28 January, over a dozen journalists arrived in Hetauda from Bara and Parsa districts, fearing attacks from MPRF supporters. MPRF activists had attacked journalists and vandalized independent media institutions and journalists' vehicles in Birgunj. Many of the journalists based in Birgunj have reportedly fled to neighboring Indian cities.

Similarly, on 29 January in Birgunj, police beat "Satya Sandesh" photojournalist, Amit Agarwal, while he was taking pictures of a demonstration that was held in defiance of the curfew order.

On the same day, in Bara, an unidentified person issued death threats against vice president of FNJ-Makawanpur chapter, Ramesh Subedi. Weekly newspapers being published from Parsa district also decided not to publish their newspapers for two days, in protest over the 28 January attack on journalists in Birgunj. "Bara Darpan", "Bara Sandesh", "Kalaiya Today", "Kripa", "Aaja ko Terai" and "Bara Weekly" decided to cease their publication in protest.

In another incident, the treasurer of FNJ-Sunsari chapter, Bed Raj Paudel, left his workplace on 29 January, following threats made by a demonstrator associated with Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Nanda Lal Meheta. Meheta called Paudel and said that he would take his life if he did not report on the demonstration.

In another incident in Morang, an eastern city of Nepal, demonstrators assaulted a journalist with "Udgosh" daily, Kamal Rimal. The incident took place while he was covering the 29 January demonstration. In a separate incident on 30 January, the demonstrators hurled stones at journalist Bikram Luitel's motorbike and damaged it. This trend of unidentified groups attacking journalists has created a threatening climate for journalists, who fear for their safety.

FNJ President Bishnu Nisthuri, who went to Birgunj to participate in the "Civil Movement for Peace and Democracy", said that "there is a lack of cooperation from the local administration to ensure the safety and security of journalists. The political parties are also showing indifference toward the incidents."

FNJ condemned the blatant attacks against press freedom. FNJ stated that it is concerned and enraged by the incidents against the media and journalists who have been targeted in the course of the ongoing agitation in central and eastern Terai. FNJ also called on the parties responsible for the unrest to heed the media, who have a responsibility to cover the events with sensitivity. It has urged the government to ensure the safety and security of journalists.

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