Freedom Forum has been constantly monitoring the arrest of three online journalists over a news story published in their media.
When Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring team reached the District Police Office of Kathmandu on June 23, 2013 it was learnt that one more journalist was already arrested in the same case.
According to the District Police, 10 days before the arrest of Sushil Pant, editor at www.nepaliheadlines.com and its owner Santosh Bhattarai, journalist Pushkar Nath Kandel, running www.extrakhabar.net in Palpa, a hilly district in the western region of Nepal was arrested over the same news story.
Journalists Pant and Bhattarai were arrested after Kandel told the police that he had copied the news from www.nepaliheadlines.com.
Asked why the journalists were arrested, the District Police said, "After Campus Chief of the Kanya Multiple Campus, Dillibazaar, of the capital city lodged a complaint that the news carried in the nepaliheadlines.com would badly tarnish the image of the campus and character of the girl students, we arrested the journalists."
The police also said they were arrested as per the Electronic Transaction Act of Nepal, and taking it as criminal case.
The news story both the online media carried, as argued by the College, was misleading and character assassinating.
Similarly, the Monitoring Team met the three journalists the same day and garnered information about the incident.
"I and my friends take it as a struggle for freedom of expression relating to the online journalism in Nepal. We are never against press freedom," said editor Pant.
Now, the police has continued investigation, taking the journalists to document their views to the Office of the District Attorney.
The Monitoring Team also inquired the District Attorney Ramesh Poudel about the case, and he responded that the investigation was being carried out by the police and documentation of detained journalists' views was on.
Freedom Forum from the very beginning has maintained its stand that sudden arrest of journalists merely because of news writing was against the freedom of expression. And, it is not the police to handle the media content if anything wrong, because we already have a separate agency, Press Council Nepal, a regulatory body to monitor the media content.
"Arresting journalists on criminal case merely over news writing is against the international practice of freedom of expression. It is not the police but the Press Council Nepal to monitor whether the news content destabilizes social harmony," comments Taranath Dahal, Freedom Forum Chairperson.
The incident has made the journalists and freedom of expression practitioners alert and suspicious whether the scope of freedom of expression would limit.
Therefore, Freedom Forum demands immediate release of the journalists, respecting their right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the constitution.
Earlier Story: Online Journalists Arrested
Freedom Forum has been concerned over the arrest of journalists, Sushil Pant and Santosh Bhattarai, from the capital city, Kathmandu, on June 20, 2013.
Police arrested guest editor to an online daily www.nepaliheadlines.com, Sushil Pant, and its owner Santosh Bhattarai, reasoning a news story about a women’s college the online published nearly a month back.
Editor at the online, Amit Adhikari, said to the Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring Desk, "Mr Pant and Bhattarai were arrested, saying 'there was something to inquire about a news story'."
Sudden arrest of journalists merely because of news writing is against the freedom of expression. And, it is not the police person to handle the content issues if anything was wrong.
It is the highhandedness of the police to arrest journalists because we have already a separate agency, Press Council Nepal, a regulatory body to monitor the media content.
Therefore, Freedom Forum demands immediate release of journalists, and urges the Press Council Nepal to look into the matter considering the seriousness and sensitivity of the news.
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