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Nepal: IFJ calls for protections for journalists

IFJ calls for greater protections for journalists in Nepal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned about the continuing attacks on press freedom in Nepal following two weeks of harassment and violence against journalists.

“Since Nepalese parliament reconvened in April some important headway has been made for media freedoms in Nepal, however journalists continue to be targeted and more must be done to ensure the rights and safety of media workers are protected,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

The IFJ, the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries, is also saddened by the news that two Nepalese media workers were killed in the helicopter crash on September 23 in eastern Nepal.

The World Wildlife Fund chartered helicopter reportedly crashed in bad weather and all 24 passengers including NTV journalist Hem Bhandari and NTV cameraman Sunil Singh were killed.

“The IFJ sends our condolences to the family and friends of Bhandari and Singh and the rest of the passengers who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” Warren said.

Photojournalists beaten
Photojournalist Bhaswar Ojha, of the Samay weekly, was reportedly beaten by Maoist cadres and had his motorcycle damaged on September 18, despite showing his press identity card.

Journalists attacked
Journalists were reportedly attacked, had their equipment seized and received death threats in a clash on September 17 at a temple in Doti, in the far western region of Nepal.

According to IFJ affiliate the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) these journalists are now in hiding out of fear for their lives.

Newspaper office padlocked in response to article
According to the FNJ, a group of people padlocked the newspaper office of Morang based newspaper Mofussil Weekly on September 15, in response to an article which said a Maoist cadre Bhim Tamang tried to sexually assault a minor girl.

The office was not unlocked until September 16 by the Civil Monitoring Committee.

Journalists forcibly issued membership to the Maoist Party
Maoists have reportedly forced a journalist Hari Narayan Regmi, of the Rastriya Samachar Samiti (National News Agency) and the wife of Shreeram Sigdel of the Annapurna Post, both in Nawalparasi, to acquire party membership.

“The number of incidents just in the last fortnight, indicates there are still serious press freedom issues in Nepal,” the IFJ President said.

“Until journalists can report freely without fear for their safety and without influence from external parties, a truly democratic Nepal cannot exist,” Warren said.

The IFJ calls for a full investigation into each of these incidents.

The IFJ has welcomed assurances from Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala that the recommendations of a high-level media commission would be implemented as soon as possible.

The recommendations, submitted on September 15, focused on structural reform of media institutions, changes in legal and constitutional provisions, advertisement policy, supervision and classification, foreign investment in media and regional reform of media.

The Commission, was set up in July after demands from the FNJ.

The IFJ urges the government to swiftly take these recommendations on board to ensure a more independent, professional and effective media in Nepal.

“The government of Nepal must use this opportunity to make some concrete moves to ensure greater protections for journalists and their freedoms, and to send a message to those who seek to harm or pressure journalists that this behaviour will not be tolerated,” he said.

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