Nepal: Journalists threatened, harassed, and detained30 Jun, 2023
Nepali journalists and media workers have been subjected to a series of media rights violations in June by criminal groups, media outlet leadership, and law enforcement, amid a rising trend of attacks and harassment towards the media in Nepal. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), urge local authorities to swiftly investigate the incidents and ensure that the rights, safety, and security of journalists are not infringed upon.
On June 21, Swasthayalive.com editor Sunil Sapkota was attacked by a group of assailants in Anamnagar, a suburb of Kathmandu, according to the FNJ. One attacker was identified as Hari Giri, the subject of an April 2021 article published while Sapkota was working with the Nagarik Daily.
The piece claimed Giri had fraudulently registered two pieces of public land in his name, one of which he managed to sell, with the allegations corroborated by reports from Nepal’s Department of Survey and Commission and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Giri’s deeds over the land have since been revoked.
Sapkota has since filed a complaint with local police, with Giri detained concerning the incident. Investigations are ongoing with the locations of others involved in the attempted attack unknown to police.
In a separate incident, FNJ Rajdhani Dainik Branch President, Ishwar Vishwakarma, was briefly confined at the outlet’s offices following direction from the publication’s management. According to the FNJ, Vishwakarma was locked inside a room and threatened with physical attacks during a worship program. Kathmandu Branch Secretary Maheshwar Gautam, journalist Nirajan Poudyal, and Valley Province Committee General Secretary Tennis Roka were also allegedly threatened.
On June 27, ABC Television Pokhara reporter and FNJ working committee member Geeta Rana was abused and briefly detained while recording the officer of the central Bhirkot Municipality for a documentary. The FNJ reported that the Municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer and police proceeded to confront Rana, subjecting the journalist to verbal abuse, and deleting all photos and video from their devices. Rana managed to leave after an hour confined to the office.
The IFJ’s annual South Asia Press Freedom Report 2022-23 revealed the ongoing threats and attacks faced by journalists in Nepal, with the country recording a total of 55 media rights violations, 22 per cent of all violations recorded in South Asia. Most instances were non-fatal attacks, including threats, injuries, and abuse relating to journalists’ work in the field.
The FNJ said: “To engage in physical aggression and misconduct towards a journalist regarding a matter concerning published news is a direct assault on press freedom. It is an act that should be condemned, as there are legal channels to address concerns regarding published or broadcasted news. FNJ calls for a thorough investigation into this incident and demands appropriate legal measures be taken.”
The IFJ said: “The recent media rights violations faced by the media demonstrate the heightened risks for journalists and media workers in Nepal, and the need for greater measures to protect their safety. The IFJ condemns the threats, detention, and attempted attacks against these journalists and urges local authorities to investigate these incidents and ensure that the rights of journalists and press freedom are not obstructed.”