Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about a series of assaults, threats and coercive measures taken by Maoist cadres against the press in various parts of the country.
Even though Maoist attacks on journalists have considerably decreased compared to previous years, they are nevertheless regular and symptomatic of a failure to tolerate criticism.
"On several occasions, and in particular in front of the international mission on press freedom in Nepal, the Maoist party’s most senior leaders have sworn their commitment to the freedom and security of journalists,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “These commitments should be urgently respected in practice. We call on the movement’s leaders to bring their militants into line and to show greater transparency,” it added.
On 27 October 2006, Dambar Singh Rai, correspondent for the Kantipur group and president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) in Khotang, eastern Nepal, was summoned to the local office of the Maoist party. Two officials, Ashmita and Pasang, accused him of putting out false news, after radio Kantipur broadcast news of the kidnapping of a member of the military in the region.
The Maoists have since 26 October occupied the offices of state-owned Nepal Television (NTV) in Kohalpur, western Nepal, which have been left empty since Maoists attacked and torched them in February 2005. After a protest by the regional head of NTV, a Maoist official, Athak, said it was pointless to forbid them to use the building since the Maoists were on the point of “taking over the entire country”.
Maoist militants on 15 October formed a human chain preventing the press from reaching the location of a meeting between the government and party leaders in Kathmandu, manhandling and in some cases insulting journalists. A spokesman, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, later voiced regret over the excesses of the militants.
On 18 September, militants of the Maoist student organisation assaulted the photojournalist Bhaswar Ojha of the Samaya Weekly in Kathmandu. Maoists in Nawalparasi, western Nepal on 16 September forced Sheeram Sigdel of the daily Annapurna Post and Hari Narayan Regmi of the RSS agency to become members of the movement.
A gang of individuals claiming to be from the Maoist party padlocked the offices of the Mophasal Weekly, in Pathari in the east of the country on 15 September after it carried an article reporting that a Maoist militant had sexually assaulted a teenage girl. The office was reopened after the intervention of local figures. A Maoist leader denied that his movement was involved.
According to the FNJ, Maoist cadres have detained assaulted, wrongly summoned or censored at least eight journalists since the return to democracy last April. "Maoists still do not want the press to know their flaws. Although Maoists have stopped attacking the journalists, they still have to learn the culture of accepting criticism. Journalists are still put to psychological pressure and threats for publishing or transmitting critical news about them,” said the FNJ.