Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a return of censorship in Nepal after a series of incidents in the past nine days in which journalists were prevented them from doing their work by Maoists or government forces or others.
“Just two months after the signing of an historic accord on 16 June between Maoist rebel chief Prachanda and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala that included protection of press freedom, Nepalese journalists are seeing the spectre of repression and censorship reemerge,” the organisation said. “We call the signatories to respect their undertakings and to let journalists work with complete freedom.”
In one of the most recent incidents, 21 people including 12 journalists were detained for three hours by a group of Maoist activists on 18 August as they were going to cover a dispute between rival village factions over the damming of the river Jamuniya in the southern district of Bara. One of the journalists, photographer Ram Sarraf, was roughed up.
The same day, Maoist political leaders prevented journalists from entering Kabhrepalanchok, a village in the east of the country, to cover the installation of a provisional camp by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which has been accused of exploiting local peasants. Maoists also turned back journalists who wanted to report on a similar camp near Kathmandu.
On 16 August, 17 employees of the Ghodaghodi community radio station were suddenly given forced retirement by its managers, who used the repair of a transformer as a pretext for preventing them from entering and recovering their personal belongings. The dismissed employees occupied the radio station the next day and unfurled a black flag in sign of opposition to the government.
The Federation of Nepalese Journalists reported that journalist Subhak Mahato was threatened and attacked by soldiers on 13 August for trying to take a photo of them shaking hands with Maoist leaders.
Several journalists have also received threats in the past week. Keshav Adhikari of the Independent News Service (INS) was threatened for writing an article about an increase in crime in a village which apparently led to several arrests. Police arrested Jangbu Sherpa while he was covering a road accident on 18 August and allegedly threatened him with tougher reprisals if he “continued to talk.” And a group of students threatened the staff of the weekly Mandawi after it ran a story about teachers helping them to cheat in their exams.