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Nepal 19 April 2004

Around 300 journalists arrested in past three days

Police arrested at least 300 journalists during demonstrations in Kathmandu on 16, 17 and 18 April. Around a dozen reporters were beaten by police officers.

"This unprecedented wave of arrests shows the government and security forces’ hostility to independent coverage of pro-democracy demonstrations," said Reporters Without Borders, in a letter to Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa.

The international press freedom organisation called on the head of government to order an investigation into the violence and to punish the police officers responsible.

According to the website Kantipuronline, the prime minister on 19 April expressed his concern to the head of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), who has continued to demand public apologies and the resignation of the information and interior minister, Kamal Thapa.

Riot police arrested 75 journalists on 16 April while they were covering demonstrations in Kathmandu. At least 50 reporters were picked up in the Ratnapark district on the sidelines of a demonstration called by five main political parties demanding a return to democracy.

Around a dozen of them were clubbed, among them Ujir Magar of the daily Kantipur. They were all held for several hours at the Singhadurbar police station. Two journalists from the Kantipur press group were only released the following morning. More than 20 more journalists were arrested when they protested against the detention of their colleagues. They were held for several hours in an army barracks in the capital.

The authorities said that only "a few journalists had been arrested because they were preventing police from doing their job," Agence France-Presse reported.

The FNJ organised a series of demonstrations to protest against these incidents. But the royalist government declared these peaceful demonstrations illegal. Since 8 April, the government has banned all demonstrations on the grounds that Maoists try to infiltrate pro-democracy protests.

Hundreds of journalists, wearing gags as a sign of protest, demonstrated in Kathmandu on 17 April against the arrest of their colleagues the previous evening. Police moved in to break up the demonstration and around 1,000 people, 200 of them journalists, were arrested, including at least 50 Kantipur group staff.

Similar demonstrations were held in around a dozen other towns, but it is not known of journalists were also arrested there.

Several dozen journalists were beaten or arrested by police on 18 April in the Bagbazaar district of the capital. Damodar Dawadi, editor of the weekly Naya Bikalpa, was brutally beaten while covering an opposition demonstration and was taken to hospital unconscious. Swagat Nepal of the daily Nepal Samacharpatra and Shital Koirala of the RSS agency were both clubbed.

In this country
30 April - Nepal
Radio station threatened by Maoists
8 February - Nepal
Nepalese media in great danger, International Press Freedom Mission finds
14 January - Nepal
Four arrested for woman journalist’s murder, while clandestine group claims responsibility
12 January - Nepal
Journalist and women’s rights activist brutally murdered
23 December - Nepal
Militant maoists continue their attacks against the media

in the annual report
Nepal - Annual report 2008
Nepal - Annual report 2007
Nepal - Annual report 2006

4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

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