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Prime Minister Press Advisor threatens FNJ General Secretary over statement

Surya Thapa, Press Advisor of Prime Minister K P Oli threatened General Secretary of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) Ramesh Bista over statement  condemning  pressure created to an online news portal to remove critical news against government.

Bista, in his capacity as general secretary had issued a statement on Thursday (April 2) on behalf of the umbrella organization of country's working journalists’ after  news was deleted from an online news portal, Kathmandupress.com under pressure from Prime Minister's advisors.

F1soft, the parent company of Siran Technologies, which is developer and designer of Kathmandupress.com  admitted that their team deleted the news after 'miscommunication' within their team members.

Prime Minister's IT consultant Asgar Ali is one of the owner of the Siran Technologies and F1soft company. According to the Kathmandupress, PM's IT Consultant Ali's two business partners--Biswas Dhakal, Chairperson of F1Soft and Subas Sharma the CEO of the company, had repeatedly pressurized the editors to remove the news. After the news portal declining to remove the news the developer company, owned by PM's advisor deleted the news and also disabled access to all admins from uploading news or make any changes to the site for two hours.

"A team of FNJ had visited the office of the Kathmandupress after hearing about the incident. They told us that Prime Minister's Press Advisor Thapa himself also pressured the online to remove the news," said FNJ Central Committee Member Yam Birahi.

Based on the reports from Kathmandupress team the FNJ issued a statement on Thursday implicating involvement of PM's secretariat team, including Thapa, in pressuring the online to remove the news.

Hours after FNJ's statement Thapa called FNJ General Secretary Bista on Thursday evening on the latters mobile and threatened of 'show him (Bista)' in response to the FNJ statement, informed Birahi.

"PM's advisor Thapa told Bista that FNJ should not issue that kind of press statement and accused him of taking the wrong way," Birahi said.

In a bid to counter the FNJ statement PM's advisor Thapa issued a separate statement on the same day accusing the FNJ being politically motivated from biased group against the government. Buying the idea of PM's advisor some former and incumbent central committee members’ of the FNJ who are affiliated to ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP)'s sister wing of journalists also issued a separate statement on Friday expressing objection to the FNJ statement.

The news published by the Kathmandupress had implicated the involvement of Prime Minister's Chief Advisor Bishnu Rimal's son Kshitiz in an irregularity while procuring the sub-standard medical supplies related to Covid-19 pandemic in the country, from a disputed supplier in a higher price than the other suppliers had offered.

Freedom Forum strongly condemns the incident as it depicts state misuse of power by those holding respectable position.  Umbrella organization of Nepali journalists threatened over statement  is also disrespect to right to press freedom which further would instigate fear among journalists leading to self censorship. However, it clearly shows how journalists and Nepali media are still under threat.

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