Over 300 attacks on press in Nepal: report

February 8th, 2009 - 7:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 8 (IANS) An international media mission that had arrived in Nepal after the brutal murder of a woman journalist to investigate attacks on the media wound up its four-day visit Sunday saying that there have been a staggering 342 cases of press freedom violation in the Himalayan republic during 2008.
The team, comprising representatives from seven organisations, said continued attacks and threats against individuals and organisations were disheartening journalists in Nepal and forcing them to practise self-censorship.

It would eventually affect Nepal’s peace process and the journey to democracy, the mission warned.

The team had met Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, whose party faces the brunt of accusations for attacks on the media after the fall of King Gyanendra’s regime and the restoration of democracy. It also met opposition leader and former premier Girija Prasad Koirala as well as chairman of the Constituent Assembly, Subhash Nembang.

“Attacks on media workers, publications and property are unacceptable,” the mission said in a statement. “Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions and any substantive grievances over work conditions must be addressed through dialogue.”

Even after the Maoist insurgency ended in 2006, four journalists were killed in Nepal: J.P. Joshi, Birendra Sah, Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha and 24-year-old Uma Singh, whose murder last month triggered public outrage.

The mission noted that authors of critical reports were being attacked but the attackers were not being brought to justice.

The attacks on media were attacks on citizens’ right to knowledge and the mission said it had noted that some perpetrators had political links.

While demanding immediate and impartial investigations into the murder and disappearance of journalists, the mission has also asked for an inquiry into the killing of Dekendra Thapa.

Thapa, a radio journalist in Dailekh district, was killed in 2004, when the civil war was at its peak, allegedly by the Maoists.

Another journalist, Prakash Thakuri, disappeared from farwestern Kanchanpur district in 2007 and the government recently withdrew the charge against the accused. The mission said Prachanda had assured them that the case would be reopened.

The mission also expressed concern about the arrest last week of high-flying journalist Rishi Dhamala and three others, who police alleged were involved in extorting a businessman on behalf of an armed organisation in Nepal’s Terai.

It said that police had not followed the correct procedure.

The mission, comprising representatives from ARTICLE 19, International Federation of Journalists, International Media Support, International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders, UNESCO and World Press Freedom Committee, said it would take up cudgels on behalf of Nepal’s media in the international community.

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