Reporters Without Borders is very concerned that Maoist threats of violence against journalists are continuing although the Maoist Party’s nationwide demonstrations ended on 7 May and party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as “Prachanda,” apologised publicly for the comments he made about journalists.
In his apology, made on 12 May, Prachanda said he had been “hurt” by media coverage of the demonstrations, especially by claims that his party organised them just so that he could be prime minister again. Ninety-nine per cent of intellectuals were “wise” and only one per cent were “fools,” he added.
In one of the latest incidents, local Maoist leader Gopal Ghimire went to the home of Chesta Weekly editor Motiram Timilsena in the eastern district of Kabhrepalanchok on 13 May and made death threats against him and the newspaper’s other employees.
The In-charge of the party’s district committee, Dinanath Gautam, subsequently claimed that Ghimire had acted on a “personal” basis and was not speaking for the party.
Sita Mademba, the BBC Nepali Service’s correspondent in the eastern district of Sunsari, has been repeatedly threatened by Maoists because of her reports about acts of extortion by party members during the recent demonstrations.
Nepal Television reporter Santosh Yadav and Somnath Bastola of The Himalayan Times, Annapurna Post and Avenues Television have also been threatened because of their coverage of the Maoists.
12 May 2010
Journalists harassed and attacked at Maoist rally in Kathmandu
Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the violence against journalists that took place during a big rally held by the Maoist Party in the capital on 9 May. It follows other physical attacks against journalists in the course of a week-long general strike organised by the Maoists.
Two cameramen, Rabindra Shrestha of Avenues Television and Praveen Maharjan of the online Associated News Agency, were badly beaten with iron bars while trying to film the rally. Their assailants broke Shrestha’s camera. After the police came to their rescue, Maharjan received 13 stitches in hospital.
“They continued to hit us although I was shouting that we were journalists,” said Shrestha, who also wore a vest that indicated he was a journalist.
Other journalists were harassed during the rally, including Rajendra Manandhar, a photographer for the Annapurna Post and Himalayan Times, Toya Dahal of the Kantipur media group, Jagat Nepal and Shaligram Tiwari. Shruti Niraula, a female journalist of Sagarmatha Television, was harassed by Maoist Party officials.
The Maoist Party’s leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (more commonly known by the nom de guerre of Prachanda), publicly threatened journalists and writers at a rally on 8 May, accusing them of humiliating peasants who participated in the strike. Another Maoist leader, Jeevan Gautam, threatened to “thrash” certain journalists.
11 May 2010
Violence unleashed against the press on fringes of Maoist demonstrations
Reporters Without Borders today called on Maoist leaders to publicly condemn violence by some of their members against journalists during the recent general strike.
The intimidation and physical assaults were worrying signs that Nepal’s main political party has not abandoned it bad habits, said the organisation, which has recorded ten cases of serious press freedom violations between 2 and 7 May 2010.
“We also condemn violence committed by police against a journalist from a Maoist media on the fringe of the demonstrations”, the organisation said.
Nepal’s Maoist Party has just ended a week-long general strike, which after a peaceful start was marked by several violent incidents in several provinces of the country.
The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) said that the majority of the physical assaults against journalists were carried out by “Maoist agitators”.
For more information about the state of press freedom in Nepal, see an interview with Yubaraj Ghimire, editor of the daily newspaper Rajdhani: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxzFVyzA9A0
Incidents during the general strike:
On 3 May 2010, around 100 Maoist cadres tried to assault Rameshchandra Adhikari, reporter on Kantipur in Dhankuta district in the east of the country, accused of having written against the party.
On 4 May, Jaya Prakash Gupta, editor of Upatyaka Daily, received death threats on the phone for an article published the same day. The caller threatened to attack his office in the capital.
Maoist agitators attacked Ram Thapa, a staff of newly introduced
National Television, in Kathmandu. He has received injury in the head.
On May 5, Sudarshan Ghimire, Assistant Editor of Shikshak Monthly, was beaten by Maoist activists. He is being treated for a fractured nose and injured left eye.
On the same day, the Maoist activists attacked Gyanendra Niraula,
correspondent of Purbanchal Daily in Kakadvitta of far eastern
Likewise, a Surkhet-based correspondent of Rastriya
Samachar Samiti (RSS), the government-owned news agency, Kashiram
Sharma was also attacked by Maoist cadres in Birendranagar
On 6 May, police beat Manoj Gharti Magar, correspondent for Janadisha Daily. The organisation said he was then illegally held for one hour at a police station in the capital where he was reportedly beaten.
Journalist Arjun Basnet of the daily Gorkhapatra Daily was beaten on 5 May and his vehicle vandalised.
On 6 May, a group of drunken Maoists misbehaved Bimal Guatam a journalist on the Republica Daily in Bhaktapur district and briefly seized his mobile phone and his ID card, after they identified him as a journalist. They also insulted him and damaged his motorbike.
On the same day, Rameshwor Karki, a reporter for Avenues Television, received a threatening phone call from the Maoists, over a report broadcast on the national channel. Demonstrators gathered in front of his house overnight on 6 May.