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Basnet threatens to shut Nagarik daily and jail its editor

Freedom Forum has been seriously concerned over the incident that has challenged media freedom (free press), journalists' rights, people's right to information and also the security mechanism.

Mahesh Basnet, Chairman of Youth Association Nepal (YAN), a sister organization of the ruling party CPN-UML,  publicly threatened to close down the Nagarik daily, a sister publication of the Republica daily and imprison the Chief Editor of the Nagarik, Narayan Wagle.

At a gathering organized by YAN in Biratnagar on August 13, 2011 to mount pressure on the administration and police to drop the charges against Parshuram Basnet, the mastermind of the June 5 attack on journalist Khilanath Dhakal, YAN Chairman Mahesh said, "The day a new constitution is drafted in our favour, we will close down the Nagarik daily and send its editor Wagle to jail."

He also threatened not to spare any journalist who has written against Parshuram. “We will settle scores with everyone sooner or later, if not tomorrow,” He said. “We have made a list of all the names. We will show what happens when a nonentity (referring to journalist Dhakal) takes us on.”

He also accused Morang Police Chief, Inspector General of Police, and Home Secretary of flaunting their power to his organization. He accused the police of labeling false charge against Parshuram Basnet.

YAN and Youth Forces are the sister organizations of the ruling CPN-UML. On August, 11, in a programme, YAN Morang Chairman Rabin Thapa also threatened of leaving all journalists in the condition of meeting the fate as that of Khilanath Dhakal.

The warnings comes at a time when Morang police is preparing to move the court against Youth Force Morang Chairman Parshuram Basnet and 18 other activists for their involvement in the May 19 attack on prisoner Avisek Giri, and the police team on Morang District Court premises. Police said they would file the case on August 14.

Parshuram's gang had attacked Khilanath Dhakal, Biratnagar-based reporter to the Nagarik national daily on June 5 over the news he wrote about the incident on the court premises.

YAN Chairman Mahesh Basnet has been publicly and repeatedly admitting that he has protected Youth Force Morang District President Parshuram Basnet who masterminded the June 5 attack on journalist Dhakal.

Freedom Forum strongly condemns the threat which has indicated that Nepali media and media persons are suppressed, tormented, and attacked time and again by the political organizations. It is a matter of worry that political leadership has given protection to such oppressors, tormenter and attackers. Parshuram Basnet who masterminded the attack on journalist Dhakal is living scot free. YAN Chairman's unlawful threat has mocked at the security mechanism. His threat has shown the highhandedness and they have taken law on their hand.

Again, Freedom Forum strongly urges the government to emerge tough on those who have put media freedom in risk, left journalists injured and mocked at people's right to information. As the repeated threats against media freedom have weakened democratic norms, the government needs to act responsibly to this end.

The District Court, Morang had issued a 70-day notice on July 18, 2011 in the name of Parshuram Basnet.

The notice was issued after police failed to arrest Basnet within seven days of the issuance of an arrest warrant, according to a record keeper in the District Court, Bhishma Raj Prasai.