Reporters Without Borders is concerned about continuing physical violence against journalists In Nepal. In the most recent case, a woman journalist, Teeka Bista, was physically attacked in the western district of Rukum on 8 December after criticising the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in an article and has been hospitalised in a serious condition.
The press freedom organisation is also shocked to learn that two members of the UCPN (Maoist) have been promoted within the party’s local secretariat in the southern district of Bara although they are suspects in the 2007 murder of journalist Birendra Shah.
“Even if we are pleased by the information minister’s decision to take charge of Teeka Bista’s hospitalisation, we continue to be worried about the impunity that seems to be granted to those who attack media freedom in Nepal and do not hesitate to kill or use violence,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We urge the Maoist party to condemn this violence and not to promote those who are linked to it,” the organisation added. “We also call on the Nepalese government to ensure that both of these cases are properly investigated.”
Aged 22, Bista was found unconscious at the foot of a cliff on 8 December with head injuries and cuts to the right hand. Her mobile phone and computer had been smashed and her files had been torn and scattered at the site of the attack. She has been flown to Kathmandu Model Hospital where doctors said she has blood clot in the head, injuries to the spine, left shoulder, right hand and left foot and possible internal injuries.
Bista, who writes about social and political developments for local newspapers in Rukum District, had just received telephone threats about an article she wrote for a Jantidhara-based weekly in which she implicated members of the UCPN-Maoist in a local politician’s death.
Meanwhile, two of the four leading suspects in the 2007 murder of Birendra Shah, the local correspondent of radio Nepal FM, Distri Weekly and Avenues TV, have been promoted within the UCPN-Maoist in Bara District.
Shah was kidnapped by alleged members of the Maoist party on 5 October 2007 and then murdered. A month later, the party acknowledged killing him but it subsequently said the suspects were no longer members. Two of the suspects, Lal Bahadur Chaudhary and Kundan Phaoujdar, have nonetheless just been appointed to positions within the party’s local secretariat in Bara.
UCPN-Maoist members used violence to obstruct journalists during a demonstration they staged on 6 December. Cars being used by journalists were blocked by demonstrators, who threw stones at some of the vehicles including the Image Channel vehicle. The motorcycles of Ramhari Pande of Rajdhani Daily and Megh Bahadur Shahi of Swabibek Weekly were also vandalised.
The day before this demonstration, Maoist activists prevented the distribution of the country’s most important publications. All of the leading dailies, including Annapurna Post, Himalayan Times, Kantipur and Nagarik, were unable to distribute their issues.