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Journo and RTI activist held in detention for reporting on irregularities

Journalist and right to information (RTI) activist Kailash Majhi was held in police custody for four days for his critical reporting about local leadership in Saptari. Saptari lies in Madhesh Province of Nepal. 

Talking to Freedom Forum, a reporter at Mountain Television, Majhi said that he had been reporting on the irregularities and malfeasance of local authorities for long. He also uses RTI to collect information on the ongoing issues in the district. Recently, he had sought information on the activities of a construction consumer committee in the district using RTI.  

Following this, the committee members abused him for seeking information. On June 13, Nepal police arrested Majhi and charged him with indecent behavior. The case is registered at District Administration Office (DAO) under the Local Administration Act 2016 BS, Majhi informed. 

"I am a journalist and RTI activist but they treated me like a criminal while in detention. I even do not know what crime I committed. Is reporting on irregularities a crime?", argued Majhi.

Majhi was released on June 17 with Rs.1,500 bail amount. Later, Majhi unsatisfied with decision of DAO, appealed at the District Court for acquittal.  

Senior Officer at Chief District Office, Saptari however refused to speak on the case with FF reasoning the case was sub judice at DAO.     

FF condemns the harassment meted out to the journalist. The arrest and prosecution under the Local Administration Act, 2016 with intention to discourage journalists and RTI activist is sheer misuse of the Act and violation of the notion of press freedom and right to information.

The incident depicts state's authoritarian move against a citizen and a journalist which has direct impact on free exercise of his fundamental rights. Hence, FF strongly urges the concerned authority to present the case in the court of law rather than an executive body.

For more information,
Freedom Forum