Reporters Without Borders is outraged by violent physical attacks on the Kantipur press group by unions affiliated to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which have obstructed distribution, threatened journalists and carried out serious acts of sabotage. The group publishes the Kantipur and Kathmandu Post daily newspapers.
"We are in complete solidarity with the Kantipur press group, which is once against being harassed by a union linked to the Maoists," the press freedom organisation said. "Wage disputes must be resolved through dialogue, not by such illegal means as sabotage, threats and blockades. It is clear the dispute is not just about wage demands. The Maoist unions are displaying a high level of intolerance and their actions are a complete violation of the undertakings the Maoist leaders gave to support press freedom."
Members of the Maoist-affiliated All Nepal Communication, Printing and Publications Workers’ Union (ANCPPWU) sabotaged electrical installations at the Kantipur group’s printing press on the evening of 30 September. A member of the Kantipur staff told Reporters Without Borders that unionists also tried to set fire to one of the group’s buildings in the capital. Distribution of the 1 October issues was severely disrupted and a return to normal could take several days.
After unionists vandalised the car of the group’s managing director, Kailash Sirohiya, on 30 September, the management fired nine unionised employees who allegedly took part in some of the Maoist union’s activities. The next day, a Maoist member of the interim parliament, Shalik Ram Jamkatel, who also heads a Maoist union, threatened to kidnap a Kantipur executive, accused the group of violating workers’ rights and re-issued a call for an advertising boycott of its two dailies.
In the same speech, Jamkatel also threatened to attack the group’s TV station, Kantipur Television Network. "The Nepalese will not die from a lack of news from Kantipur," he told the unionists blocking the entrance to the group’s main building. "We don’t need their news. Or their journalists either. We are ready to muster 100,000 workers in an hour to attack Kantipur."
These acts of sabotage have taken place despite a ruling issued by a court in the city of Patan on 28 September ordering the Maoist union to stop harassing the press group. Kantipur has also received the support of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, while the Editor’s Alliance circulated a statement condemning "the Maoist attacks on Kantipur Publications."
Maoist activists prevented distribution of regional editions of the dailies on 1 October in the central city of Bharatpur and the eastern city of Biratnagar, burning hundreds of copies as they left local printing centres. Maoists also torched more than 2,000 copies of the newspapers in the central city of Pokhara.
The Maoist unions previously disrupted distribution of the Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post in August. The Maoists launched their latest offensive against Kantipur shortly before an agreement was due to be signed between the management and the unions on 9 September.