A case of public offence has been filed against two journalists from Banke, a city in the mid-western plains of the country recently, reasoning they did not provide news source (video clips) for a corruption-investigating body.
The District Police Office of Banke initiated the case under public offence against Tilak Gaunle, reporter for the Sagarmatha Television, and Chhetranath Devkota (Akash), reporter for the Mountain Television, under the direction of CIAA (Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority), reasoning that they did not provide the video clips they had taken while the police persons were taking bribe on the night of February 6.
"Since the District Police initiated filing of case against us, we were forced to escape the police arrest and are continuing hiding. We had visualized the bribe taken by the police in the night, but, did not provide the footage as it was our right to protect the news source, and we were doing investigative journalism," reporter Devkota said to Freedom Forum on March 2, adding they remained panicked much during this period.
However, he said none had given any threat to them, but friends informed that the District Police Office filed the case against them reasoning they did not help CIAA in the investigation of the corruption (bribe taking).
Meanwhile, when inquired on March 2 whether the CIAA had directed the District Police Office of Banke to initiate case, the CIAA Spokesperson Begendra Poudel flatly denied the media reports, saying it was false because the CIAA had not directed any agency to file case against journalists.
Inquired more to another journalist in Banke, reporter with the Kantipur daily, Rajendra Nath, and another senior journalist in Banke, Sukrarishi Chaulagain, confirmed that the police had initiated the case and was still searching the hiding journalists.
To this, Chairperson of the Freedom Forum observes, "The pressure on the reporters to disclose the new source (video clips) was unethical and against the principle. None can force the reporter to reveal the news source. If the journalists are compelled for this, how can be a fair and professional journalism encouraged? So, CIAA's direction and police case is a step to suppress press freedom".
Therefore, FF strongly urges the District Police Office to immediately withdraw the case and protect journalists' right to free reporting, and ensure safety to the panicked reporters.
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