With the mounting violent demonstrations in the southern plains of the country, the protestors hurled a petrol bomb at the home of Ram Sarraf, reporter to the Himalayan Times daily in Birgunj, a city in central region, on Sunday evening. However, no big damage was reported.
Freedom Forum vehemently condemns this incidents as these are blatant violations of press freedom.
To this, Freedom Forum Chairperson Taranath Dahal comments, "Peaceful protest is the rights, but making agitation violent and panicking journalists and common citizens is never a good practice. Through dialogue, we can solve problems and make society peaceful where citizens' rights are protected."
Also, Freedom Forum requests the concerned security persons and local administration to keep a vigil on the agitators in view of the possible attacks on journalists.
Press Council Nepal, on November 3, wrote to six FM radios of Birgunj, a city in the southern plains of the country, warning them not to disseminate 'fabricated and sponsored news'.
In another incident, The local FMs- Radio Tarai, Radio Bindas, Radio Birgunj, Narayani FM, Bhojpuriya FM and Akash FM- were issued a letter by Press Council Nepal, saying that they were found airing 'fabricated and sponsored news breaching the journalistic principles and values thereby inciting violence and terror, and destabilizing Nepal's sovereignty, integrity, national unity, social harmony and good relations among communities and the relations with neighbouring country. It was against journalists' Code of Conduct so they are warned not to repeat such.'
Interestingly, when inquired about this, Press Council Nepal Chairman Borna Bahadur Karki on November 4 said, "We have complaints from people, but there were not concrete evidences right now."
Similarly, Arti Yadav of Bindas FM confirmed that six FMs including his were written by the Press Council Nepal by labeling allegation on them.
"The Council has not demanded any broadcast radio content, nor has indicated any aired content, but hastily blamed us," he added.
Moreover, senior journalist and Press Council Nepal's member Chandra Kishor who is a resident of Birgunj and working in the same city said he was not officially aware of it. He just saw it through social media. "I think the Council Chairman was under the influence of some members and made such statement dictating media without any ground," he showed concern.
Mohan Chapagain, Chairperson of an umbrella organization of community radio stations working for their rights, Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal, said he was also not aware about the situation. "I'm not aware about the Council's monitoring," he added.
Similarly, Gopal Jha, Chairperson of Broadcasting Association of Nepal, also admitted, "Although the radios were said to have aired provocative news, such contents are not available."
It shows that Council wrote the FM radios without any objectionable aired content.
Freedom Forum is of the stand that warning media without monitoring facts is a breach of press freedom. With this, it is likely that Press Council Nepal will be used as a tool to suppress people's freedom of expression which does not suit democracy. Press Council Nepal does have the rights to monitor the code of conduct, but warming media without any objectionable evidence weakens its role. Therefore warning media without finding facts is a vague and generalization.
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