A team of journalists was threatened by Suresh Chandra DC, Assistant Forest Officer, through Facebook on February 3 over a news story on massive illegal deforestation in Jorayal area of Doti published on many newspapers and online news portals. Doti is the district which lies in the far western region of Nepal.
Talking to Freedom Forum, reporter with the Himalaya Times, Min Bahadur Budha said, “With flurry of news on deforestation in Jorayal Area over online and print media for a week, District Forest Office Doti suspended its two officers, while an assistant officer Suresh Chandra DC was transferred to its Budar Sector Office." Later, DC claiming he was not involved in the tree felling wrote at threatening Facebook status to journalists.
In the Facebook status, DC wrote: "Do whatever you can, but don’t blame innocent as guilty and the guilty as innocent. Otherwise, your pens will be smashed, and break your backbone."
Reporter Budha confirmed that the news was written after field inspection by a team of journalists.
Freedom Forum condemns both incidents of which are sheer intimidations on journalists' right to free reporting. These are the gross violations of press freedom, which do not suit a democracy. It is quite abhorring that security persons who are to provide security to citizen are threatening and panicking journalists. Similarly, government officers are hostile to media persons.
Freedom Forum strongly urges the security to immediately lift the ban on news portal and urges forest officer to stop blaming journalists to hide misdeed. It is essential that all sides- government official, security persons- respect press freedom.
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