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Journalists targeted, newspapers torched, media misused in Tarai/Madhes agitation

Nepal has got the much awaited new constitution on September 20. The constitution bill was passed by more than two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly, the supreme body of the people's representatives. From many sectors from the across the country and the foreign countries too, the constitution is welcomed, with the hope it has provided broader rights to Nepali citizens and will pave way for the economic development of the country.

However, some political parties and groups have continued agitation in the southern plains (Tarai/Madhes). The agitations in many places have turned violent with damages and arsons.
With such, the media persons are facing tough time to report freely. The journalists are therefore suppressed by both agitators and security persons.

Agitators threaten of action on reporters
The protestors in the southern plains have been targeting journalists reasoning they did not prioritize the Tarai/Madhes issues.

In Birgunj, a city in Parsa district, reporter for the Himalayan Times daily, Ram Sarraf; reporter for Nepal One Television, Naresh Sarraf; reporter with local Birgunj Sandesh, Nehal Khan; reporter with Birgunj Samarcharpatra, Amit Sah; reporter with Parsa Post, Sujit Bhujel; reporter with News 24, Ifran Ali; reporter with Bhojpuri Times daily were threatened of attack by the agitators on September 21.

"Situation here has been very tough for free reporting," said Ritesh Tripathi, reporter for the Nagarik daily from Birgunj, adding, "Both agitating sides and security forces are hostile to media persons. The agitators are repeatedly warning journalists of action reasoning they were not giving priority to Tarai/Madhes issues, according to him.

Newspapers Torched
Similarly, in the copies of the Himalayan Times, the Annapurna Post and the Arthik Abhiyan dailies were burnt by the agitators.

Circulation of newspaper obstructed
The vehicles carrying the Nagarik and Kantipur dailies were blocked from enter the Birgunj city by the agitators.

Journalists Manhandled
In Bara, another district in the central southern plains, reporter for Ujjyalo 90 Network, Jay Narayan Yadav; reporter for the Gorkhapatra daily, Shiva Shankar Mishra; reporter for Avenues TV, Bhaiya Ram Sah were manhandled by the protestors while they were making news on the arson and vandalism in the district on September 21.
They even damaged Mishra's camera.

Police manhandle reporters
In Morang, a district in the southern plains of the country, police persons, on September 21, manhandled Abadhes Kumar Jha, reporter for the Kantipur daily, photojournalist Shyam Sundar Sutihar, and Pratik Shrestha, reporter for the Avenues TV, while taming the demonstrators.
The Kantipur daily wrote that the security persons even deleted the photos taken by Sutihar. They had asked the journalists not to take photograph.

Misuse of FM Radios to glorify Madhes agitation
Meanwhile, some local FM radios were found to have airing the content by glorifying the Madhesh agitation thereby jeopardizing the communal hatred.

Editor of a local Kripa daily, Kamal Kumar Upadhyay, informed that complaints were lodged at the district security office against some FM radios for they were airing the content which would instigate protest. "Protest program in a place, gather to chase away those against Madhes," such were the calls made by some radios, thereby inciting one against another.

To this, Freedom Forum Chairperson Taranath Dahal said, "Such mounting pressure on journalists to write or to reject any news is creating big threat to them. It has blocked people's freedom of expression and violated grossly the press freedom. The political parties and leaders spearheading the agitations need to make their cadres aware on press freedom and respect freedom of expression. The misuse of media is quite harmful to democratic values. We need to be aware of media's misuse which creates anarchy rather than peace where people can exercise their rights freely. Even the security persons need to exercise restraint, so that journalists may not panic a lot on reporting."

For More Information
Freedom Forum
Thapathali, Kathmandu
Post Box No: 24292
Phone No. 4102030, 4102022
Website: www.nepalpressfreedom.org; www.freedomforum.org.np
Email: monitoring@freedomforum.org.np;  info@freedomforum.org.np;