Freedom Forum has been alarmed over the news that Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), the sole body responsible for dealing with petroleum products in Nepal, has filed a case against the Nagarik daily after the daily brought into light huge financial irregularities rife in the NOC.
As the Nagarik daily states, it was sued of ‘defamation case by Managing Director of NOC, Gopal Khadka, claiming Rs 800 million in damages.
The sister publication of the Nagarik daily, the Republica stated on September 1 edition as “Court officials served notice of the defamation petition filed by Khadka on August 17 at Kathmandu District Court, to Nepal Republic Media (NRM) Thursday. The petition has named NRM Managing Director Binod Raj Gyawali, Director Shobha Gyawali, Nagarik Daily Editor-in-Chief Guna Raj Luintel and correspondent Dilip Paudel as defendants and claimed Rs 200 million from each in compensation. This is probably the biggest defamation case against any publication house in terms of the amount of compensation claimed.”
Both the Nagarik and Republica dailies were making a series of investigative stories on the corruption involved in the procurement of land by NOC in various parts of the country. The dailies were publishing the stories based on the findings of the probe committees of the Legislature Parliament and the surveillance kept on by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, and anti-graft body.
“Khadka in his petition argued that instead of rewarding him for the good work he had tried to do, his image was tarnished by the defendants. He claimed that he was insulted by the running of stories on multi-million misappropriations involved in the procurement of land meant for building NOC storage depots,” Republica made elaborate.
Executive Chief of Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, observed, “Filing a case of defamation by NOC Chief merely because of the revelation of huge financial irregularities plaguing the NOC has panicked the concerned media and journalists creating self-censorship. Self-censorship is detrimental to press freedom, and where the press freedom is suppressed, democracy is not functional.”
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