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Nepal Police asks journalists to disclose news source; journalists knock High Court

Freedom Forum has serious concern over Nepal Police letter to online media houses asking them to disclose the source of news published on December 21 in the capital city.

The online news portals www.susashannews.com, www.suvadin.com and www.muldharnews.com have been asked to provide the copies of two different performance evaluation reports of the police officer Nawaraj Silwal and its source through the letter sent by Metropolitan Police Range Office. The journalists in respective media received the letter on December 24.

“It is requested to you to provide the reportedly original and fake performance evaluation reports disclosing source from where it was obtained,” reads the letter sent by Deputy Superintendent of Police Bel Bahadur Pandey.

Freedom Forum's stringer for Province 3, Ashok Dahal, reported that the online media have declined publishing the copies of performance evaluation report in their news and claimed that they had published the news based on court verdict.

Quoting Roshan Khadka, Executive Editor of www.muldharnews.com, stringer Dahal said, "The court had clearly stated in its verdict that Silwal was ahead in performance evaluation and had questioned about the evaluation report submitted by the government. They had never published any copies of such reports as asked in the police letter to them”.

The incident took place after the Apex Court asked government to prove fake performance appraisal report submitted to the judiciary.

“Many media houses had published such performance evaluation report but the police have written to only three media breaching its jurisdiction,” Khadka claimed.

“It's not our offense at all to publish news about the court verdict. If any evidence of our activities beyond journalistic work is proved, we are ready to assist the legal investigation,” argued Editor Khadka.

Upon FF's contact with Metropolitan Police Office, they informed that investigation on "Document Scrutiny" case of former DIG Nabraj Silwal and collecting the proof from various sources was in process. However, above mentioned online media had published the copies of the performance evaluation documents in their news earlier and they just wanted to confirm the source of the news.

"According to the journalists, the police have also collected call details of five journalists including the editors of the three online media,” stringer Dahal claimed.

Following this, two online news portals sushashannews.com and muldharnews.com have filed a writ petition against Metropolitan Police Range of Nepal Police at Patan High Court on December 26. Editors duo Madan Bhandari and Ravi Singh Dhami have filed the petition claiming Nepal Police intimidation 'a kind of attack on media'.

Although it is normal that journalist must mention the sources of the news, the protection or the confidentiality of the sources of news is equally important for ethical and professional journalism. As the journalists are front-line information providers and human rights defenders, protection and promotion of free press is imperative.

Hence, FF strongly urges the police administration to immediately withdraw the order realizing that the journalists are not obliged to disclose the sources of news. The journalists are put in risk if they are pressed to disclose the confidentiality of the news sources.

For more information,
Freedom Forum
Thapathali, Kathmandu
Post Box No: 24292
Phone No. 4102030, 4102022
Website: www.nepalpressfreedom.org; www.freedomforum.org.np