Journalists from different media houses were barred from entering the vote counting places thereby hindering the factual reporting on the ongoing vote count of the second phase of local election in Bhojpur on June 29, a day after the voting.
During a telephonic conversation with Freedom Forum, Kantipur television reporter from Bhojpur, Kiran Rai, said, “When we (a reporter each from Kantipur daily, Nagarik daily, Annapurna Post daily, Naya Patrika daily and Ujjyalo online) went to collect news on the vote count of local elections from the office of the Chief Election Officer, Bhojpur, we were not allowed to enter the counting area. The security persons did not allow us enter there."
Moreover, Chief District Officer Gomadevi Chemjong told the reporters not to enter the counting room and nor they could take any photos because, she argued, the administration was asked to do so from the top officials.
Similarly in a separate incident, media persons along with election observers were denied entry to vote counting premises on July 1 in Nawalparasi, 3 days after the local level election.
Talking to Freedom Forum, Vijay FM 101.6 MHz's editor-in-chief Dhrubamani Poudel said, "Due to a dispute among political representatives, vote counting process stopped for almost 3 hours in the office of Bardaghat Municipality. After that, showing security reasons election officers, barred us (ten media persons from -Gorkhapatra, Daunne FM, Butwal Today, Suanaul FM, Triveni Tv, Vijay FM and other local media) from entering the premises. However, reporters with Radio Nepal and National News Agency (RSS) were given access to the site. "
"Hence, we have to rely upon the update almost 4-5 hours late and we had no choice", added Poudel. They even requested with Assistant Chief District Officer Madhab Prasad Dhungana but he did not respond to problem reasoning it’s the responsibility of election officers.
Freedom Forum condemns the obstruction the reporters faced while reporting. The security and the CDO's barring of journalists indicate that journalists are not allowed free reporting on the pressing event. The concerned authority must realize the mistake and respect press freedom. As the vote counting is the concern of larger audience and the counting place is the public one, barring reporters from entering it was illogical, and the violation of press freedom.
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