Reporters Without Borders reiterates its deep concern about the continuing wave of violence against journalists in Nepal. Three days after sounding the alarm, the press freedom organization has received reports of more incidents.
Muktiram Neupane of the daily Aarthik Abhiyan sustained head and stomach injuries in an attack in the western district of Palpa on 22 May, a day after Ashok Tuladhar, a reporter for the same newspaper, sustained a serious injury in an attack in the central district of Lalitpur.
Sagarmath Television reporter Deepa Ale was attacked by demonstrators on 21 May in Nepalgunj, in the western district of Banke. She has been hospitalized in Kathmandu with serious eye injuries sustained in the attack.
The following journalists have also reportedly been the victims of attacks:
On 22 May
-*Chudamani Wagle of Radio Sarlahi
-*Dhruba Basnet of Star FM, in Bhaktapur
-*Dila Prasad Gautam of Nepal Television
-*Meena Khadka of Mountain Television, in Kathmandu
-*Tikaram Neti of Mountain Television
-*Uttam Phuyal of Mountain Television, in Kathmandu
On 21 May
-*Dharmendra Sapkota of Mountain Television, in Lalitpur
-*Mukti Shrestha, a Mountain Television cameraman, in Lalitpur
-*Nabaraj Shresth of News 24 Television, in Lalitpur
-*Nirmal Wali of News 24 Television, in Lalitpur
-*Pratikshya Sharma, a Mountain Television cameraman, in Lalitpur
-*Rameshwor Sapkota of Mountain Television, in Lalitpur
On 20 May
-*Ramhari Pande of Sourya Daily, in Kathmandu
On unspecified dates
-*Binu Thapa Magar of Gandaki FM, in Pokhara
-*Chuda Mani Wagle of Radio Sarlahi
Many copies of the Kantipur Daily, Annapurna Post, Kathmandu Post and Himalayan Times newspapers were burned by demonstrators in the eastern town of Lahan on 24 May.
Mountain Television and Radio Madhyabindu reported being the target of intimidation attempts by demonstrators demanding favourable coverage of their protests. At one point, demonstrators surrounded the Radio Madhyabindu bureau in the central district of Nawalparasi.
Protestors in the central district of Nuwakot issued a warning to Dhruba Rawal, an official with the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), accusing him of covering their demonstrations in a negative manner.
A total of 13 radio stations, two TV stations and seven newspapers in the central district of Rupandehi were forced to suspend activity because of similar harassment.
Media vehicles have been attacked again. A Nagarik Daily vehicle was damaged in Kerakha, in the eastern district of Jhapa, on 22 May. A Mountain Television vehicle was vandalized in the central city of Bhaktapur, while a Karobar Daily vehicle was vandalized in Kathmandu.
22/05/2012 - Proposed new constitution fuels tension, threats and attacks on media
Reporters Without Borders is disturbed by the many acts of violence against the media in the past two weeks in Nepal. Attacks on journalists and threats to their work have been fuelled by mounting tension in the run-up to the adoption of a new constitution, scheduled for 27 May.
“The government should not forget the media amid all the controversy,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The new constitution must guarantee fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information. Only constitutionally protected media will able to question and criticize the government and make it accountable to the public.
“The safety of journalists and news media in the course of their work will continue to be sacrificed in the absence of a concrete commitment by the authorities. Responding to physical attacks on journalists and ending impunity for those responsible for this violence should be priorities for the government. We note this week’s promise by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to provide better protection for journalists and we hope that concrete measures quickly follow.”
In response to a nationwide call by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), many ethnic and religious groups have staged protests this month in a bid to get their demands reflected in the new constitution, and protesters have repeatedly harassed, threatened and attacked journalists. Newspaper distribution has been disrupted in the regions with the most tension, especially in the west.
Journalists attacked during demonstrations
Hari Sharma of the Annapurna Post newspaper and Image Channel Television was attacked in the central district of Nawalparasi on 19 May by supporters of the United Tharu Struggle Committee, a group formed by members of the Tharu ethnic community, after he covered a demonstration they had organized. They burned his motorcycle and broke his right hand.
Demonstrators attacked three journalists – Sharad Chandra Bhandary of the news agency Rashtriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) and two reporters with the daily Sourya, Ram Sharan Bajagain and Bheem Gautam – on 11 May in Kathmandu, robbing Bajagain and Gautam of their press cards.
Homraj Ranabhat of the daily Gorkhapatra was physically attacked by representatives of a group formed by members the Tharu community in the west of the country on 8 May. Members of the same movement attacked Milan Parajuli and Prem Bahadur Kshetry of Vijay FM, taking their press cards and the keys to their motorcycle.
Around 50 other journalists have been attacked in the past two weeks. They include:
On 21 May
-*Ashok Dulal of Aarthik Abhiyan
-*Nawaraj Shrestha of News 24 Television
-*Prakash Adhikari, of Sagarmatha Television, in Makawanpur district
-*Radheshyam Khatiwada, secretary of the Federation of Nepali Journalists in Chitawan district
-*Rajan Upadhyay, of Barahi FM, in Kaski
On 20 May
-*Biku Tamang, a freelancer affiliated to the Federation of Sports Journalists, in Lalitpur
-*Bijay Chamling of Rajdhani Daily, in Chabahi
-*Dinesh Gautam of Citizen FM, in Kathmandu
-*Dipendra Karki of Karobar Daily, in Lalitpur
-*Prakash Kattel of Road Map Weekly
-*Radheshyam Dahal of Sagarmatha Television
-*Rajan Parajuli of Antenna Foundation Nepal, in Kathmandu
-*Rajesh Rai of Gorkhapatra Daily
-*Shakti Karki of Road Map Weekly
-*Shambhu Kumar Prasai of Gorkhapatra Daily
-*Upendra Sharma of Muktipatra Weekly
-*Y.P. Ghimire, a Himalaya TV cameraman, in Lalitpur
On 19 May
-*Ram Rijhan Yadav, a journalist and media adviser to the prime minister, in Anamnagar, Kathmandu
On 17 May
-*Dilli Acharya, the president of the Rajdhani section of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), in Kalanki, Kathmandu
-*Prakash Chandra Bhattarai, a journalist with the newspaper Lokvani daily and adviser to the FNJ’s Tanahu section, in Tanahu
-*Prem Prasad Poudel, a journalist with the newspaper Lokvani daily and president of the FNJ’sTanahu section, in Tanahu
On 10 May
-*Govinda Chaulagain of the Society of Cooperative Journalists
-*Purna Bhakta Duwal of the Society of Cooperative Journalists
-*Rajesh Khanal of the Kathmandu Post, in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu
-*Tapendra Karki of the newspaper Rajdhani, in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu
On 9 May in the town of Dhangadi (in the western district of Kailali)
-*Devraj Joshi of Swarnim Nepal
-*Nawaraj Khanal of Mountain Television
-*Ranga Timalsina of the Dhangadhi Post
On various dates
-*Akkal Kunwar of Sagarmatha Television, in Kathmandu
-*Ankit Adhikari of the Kathmadu Post, in Kathmandu
-*Basu Satyal of Avenues Television
-*Ganashekhar Sharma, a media union adviser, in Chitawan district
-*Hari Upreti Bhuwan
-*Karna Chanda of Triveni FM in Doti district
-*Mohan Shahi of the newspaper Kantipur, in Doti district
-*Prakash Bam of Triveni FM in Doti district
-*Pranab Kharel of the Kathmadu Post, in Kathmandu
-*Punya Dhamala of Sagarmatha Television
-*Rajendra Pokhrel of Nepal News
-*Rajesh Chamling of Sagarmatha Television
-*Rohit Bhandari of Mountain Television
-*Saral Gurung of Sagarmatha Television
-*Satish Subedi of Sagarmatha Television
-*Shaligram Nepal, the president of Press Chautari, in Chitawan district
-*Shambu Prasai of Sagarmatha Television
-*Shishir Simkhada of Radio Nepal, in Chitawan district
-*Tek Chanda of Triveni FM in Doti district
Threats and harassment
Radio Kantipur FM’s studio in the central district Lalitpur was surrounded on 20 May by demonstrators demanding favourable coverage of their community.
Dharminda Saha of Samachar, a daily based in the western city of Dhangadhi, received a phone call on 13 May in which he was told to stop covering the current demonstrations.
In a note to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) on 13 May, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) accused the media of opposing a federal system and threatened to boycott media that covered the proposal negatively.
NEFIN general secretary Ang Kaji Sherpa also warned that he would disperse media demonstrations and would “finish off” journalists if they dared to stage a counter-offensive. “We have heard that the Federation of Nepali Journalists is organising a protest rally against our strike,” he said. “If it happens then we would not spare the journalists.”
The chairman of NEFIN, Raj Kumar Lekhi, meanwhile contradicted the organization’s general secretary. He reportedly asked demonstrators to stop attacking the media and insisted on NEFIN’s respect for the press.
The FNJ and other journalists’ unions and media associations such as the Revolutionary Journalists Association (RJA), the Nepal Press Union and Press Chautari have condemned the threats and attacks. After lodging a complaint with the interior ministry, they organized a demonstration on 20 May against violence against journalists.
The government, which has begun negotiations with ethnic and religious groups, has condemned the attacks on the media and has urged protesters to calm down.
Attacks on media property
Demonstrators attacked a vehicle owned by the daily Rajdhani as it was being used to deliver newspapers in Butawal, in the western district of Rupandehi, on 11 May. They also attacked the journalist Dinesh Pande when he tried to protect the vehicle.
A vehicle owned by the daily Nagarik was damaged by Muslim protesters in Inaruwa Chowk, in the eastern district of Sunsari on 10 May.
The vehicles of other media including Kantipur Publications, Kantipur Television, Karobar Daily, Kantipur TV, Himalaya TV, Avenues TV, Nepal 1 TV, Citizen FM, Gorkhapatra Daily, Lumbini Television, News 24 Television, Annapurna Post, Radio Lumbini and Mechi Kali have been attacked in recent days in various parts of the country including the capital.
In Kathmandu, demonstrators set fire to 60 copies of the Kantipur and Kathmandu Post newspapers and to the motorcycles of Himalaya TV cameraman Y.P. Ghimire and Nagarik reporter Govinda Pariyar.
Nepal is ranked 106th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.