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Youth Association Nepal chairman threatens to shut newspaper and jail its editor

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - Freedom Forum is seriously concerned over an incident that has jeopardised media freedom, journalists' rights, and people's right to information and national security.

Mahesh Basnet, chairman of Youth Association Nepal (YAN), a sister organization of the ruling party CPN-UML, publicly threatened to close down "Nagarik News", a sister publication of the "Republica" daily, and imprison the "Nagarik News" editor-in-chief, Narayan Wagle.

At a gathering organized by YAN in Biratnagar on August 13, 2011, to mount pressure on the administration and police to drop the charges against Parshuram Basnet, the mastermind of the June 5 attack on journalist Khilanath Dhakal, YAN Chairman Mahesh said, "The day a new constitution is drafted in our favour, we will close down 'Nagarik News' and send its editor, Wagle, to jail."

Mahesh Basnet also threatened not to spare any journalist who has written against Parshuram Basnet. "We will settle scores with everyone sooner or later, if not tomorrow," he said. "We have made a list of all the names. We will show what happens when a nonentity (referring to journalist Dhakal) takes us on."

He also accused the Morang Police Chief, the Inspector General of Police, and the Home Secretary of flaunting their power. He accused the police of falsely charging Parshuram Basnet.

The warning comes at a time when Morang police are preparing to file a case against Parshuram Basnet and 18 other activists, for their involvement in the May 19 attack on a prisoner, Avisek Giri, and the police team, on Morang District Court premises.

Parshuram Basnet's gang attacked Dhakal, a Biratnagar-based reporter for the "Nagarik News", over the story he wrote about the incident on the court premises.

YAN Chairman Mahesh Basnet has been publicly and repeatedly admitting that he has protected Youth Force Morang District President Parshuram Basnet.

Freedom Forum strongly condemns the threat uttered by Mahesh Basnet and believes it indicates that Nepali media and media personnel are being suppressed, tormented, and attacked time and again by political organizations. It is a matter of concern that the political leadership has given protection to such oppressors, tormenters and attackers. Parshuram Basnet is still at large. The YAN chairman's unlawful threat mocks security measures.

Again, Freedom Forum strongly urges the government to act tough on those who have put media freedom at risk, left journalists injured and mocked people's right to information. As the repeated threats against media freedom have weakened democratic norms, the government needs to act responsibly.

The District Court in Morang had issued a 70-day court summons on July 18, 2011 in the name of Parshuram Basnet. The notice was issued after police failed to arrest Basnet within seven days of the issuance of an arrest warrant, according to a record keeper in the District Court.
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