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Deploring Attacks on Himalmedia & Other Newsoutlets

Journalism watchgroups, UN and other agencies deplore attacks on Himalmedia and other newsoutlets.

Nepal Monitor culled the following releases from various human rights and watch groups concerning the attacks by Maoist unionists on Himalmedia on Dec 21 and other media outlets. This page will be periodically updated.

Militant maoists continue their attacks against the media: RSF

23 December 2008- Reporters Without Borders said today it was deeply concerned about a wave of attacks on the media, condemning the impunity with which Maoist militants operate, two days after the offices of press group Himal Media in Kathmandu were ransacked.

“The prime minister, Prachanda, should keep his promise and launch an investigation to ensure the guilty are punished. Threats and assaults against the media are escalating,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Militants of the Youth Force (YF), affiliated to the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), raided and ransacked the offices of the newspaper, Ankush, in the city of Birjgunj, on the country’s eastern border on 23 December, and burned 2,500 copies of the newspaper.

Editor of Ankush, Bijaya Bhandari, said the YF members had complained that “the paper referred to their parties’ two acronyms without distinguishing between them”. It was the second attack on the paper this year after the premises were vandalised on 29 August 2008.

Elsewhere, the local Kantipur Daily carried an article on 22 December in which the president of the dreaded Young Communist League (YCL) in Bhaktapur district, east of the Kathmandu Valley, affiliated to the Maoist Party, warned that its members “now intended to target publications based in Bhaktapur".

Members of the All Nepal Communications, Printing and Publications Workers Union (ANCPPWU), affiliated to the Maoists, also threatened employees of a company that distributes several publications in Nepal, the ACPA. The company chiefly distributes the big-selling dailies, The Himalayan Times and the Annapurna Post. This came after the Post made a complaint about the ANCPPWU before the Supreme Court, calling it a “fraudulent organisation”.
By way of riposte, the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) organised a demonstration on 23 December to protest against constant attacks suffered by privately-owned media.

The Media Society and Editors Alliance said in a statement, “We see the different attacks against the media as a serious threat to press freedom, democracy and pluralism in the country. It is ironic that these attacks should be carried out by groups affiliated to a party that won elections and heads the government”.

Editors of the leading privately-owned media have launched a protest campaign in their publications with some newspapers, for example, carrying a blank page in place of an editorial.

Reporters Without Borders pointed out that, “Protection of press freedom, guaranteed by the new constitution, is a key element in ensuring the establishment of a democracy worthy of the name in the country.”


U.S. Embassy Condemns Assault on Himalmedia

December 22, 2008- We condemn the violent attack on Himalmedia personnel and facilities on Sunday, December 21, as a blatant, illegal assault on freedom of the press in Nepal. It was a criminal act to invade the premises and physically assault the Himalmedia staff: The perpetrators of this assault must be held accountable.

We encourage the police to complete the investigation of this latest incident of criminal violence against the media as soon as possible and press charges against the perpetrators. There is no justification for the use of violence and intimidation by any party or organization in an attempt to control the media or threaten freedom of the press in Nepal. The culture of impunity that has protected some criminals from prosecution for violent, illegal actions should end.


Attack on Himalmedia Violates Press Freedom, Says IFJ

December 22, 2008- The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemns the repeated attacks against offices and personnel of the Himalmedia group of publications, by individuals believed to be associated with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the principal constituent of the ruling coalition in Nepal.

According to information received from the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), an IFJ affiliate, the chief executive of Himalmedia, its editor and publisher were among twelve people injured in an attack by a mob shouting Maoist slogans just after noon on December 21.

About 50 people are believed to have participated in the attack, including Maoist leaders who have been identified by reliable eye-witnesses.

This mob, the IFJ is informed, forced their way into the Himalmedia premises and began physically assaulting staff members, while loudly proclaiming that this was in retaliation for material published in the group's papers about the Maoists' misdeeds.

The IFJ learns that current issues of Himalmedia group publications - the Nepali language daily, Himal Khabarpatrika and the English-language weekly, Nepali Times - carry investigative stories about Maoist militants who have been threatening businesses and the media.

"This attack on Himalmedia is an attack on press freedom and has nothing to do with the defence of journalism or the public interest", said Jacqueline Park, director of the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

The IFJ calls on the authorities in Nepal to initiate immediate action against the attackers their leaders, who have been identified in reports carried by the local media.

"We call upon the political leadership in Nepal, including the Prime Minister and the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, to promptly denounce this act of vandalism and take personal responsibility for ensuring that the guilty are appropriately sanctioned", said Park.

The IFJ supports FNJ's plans to hold demonstrations in protest against this incident, which is the latest in a disturbing pattern of attacks on the media, seemingly with official sanction.

The IFJ is disturbed to learn that well established procedures of registering unions within the journalists' community, are being shredded by a collusive arrangement between the Labour Minister in the newly sworn Republican Government of Nepal and vigilante groups that have emerged over the last decade of the Maoist insurgency.

"We call on all political parties in Nepal, and the wider civil society, to apply existing rules on the recognition of journalists' trade unions", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"Any amendments to these rules should come from a broad process of consultation, rather than be forced upon one or the other side by mob action".


OHCHR-Nepal condemns attack at Himal Media

21 December 2008- OHCHR-Nepal condemns the attack Sunday against staff at Himal Media publishing house in Kathmandu as an attack against freedom of expression.

Dozens of persons entered the Himal office at mid-day searching for the author of a recently-published article. They then physically assaulted a number of individuals, including Publisher Kunda Dixit and CEO Ashutosh Tiwari.

Human rights officers from OHCHR-Nepal followed up the incident in support of investigators from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The attack is the latest in a series of assaults against the media in Nepal. In Janakpur on 20 October, several persons reportedly raided the office of a local newspaper, assaulted staff, and damaged and stole equipment. The incident followed publication of a news article suggesting that the Young Communist League (YCL) was providing protection for prostitution. In another incident, a journalist from a daily newspaper in Nepalgunj informed OHCHR that he had been verbally abused and threatened on 21 October by a local government official of Banke district, following publication of an article that alleged financial irregularities linked to a local construction project.

OHCHR-Nepal encourages the Nepal Police, which investigated Sunday’s incident, to complete its investigation as swiftly as possible so charges can be laid. It also urges State authorities to take all steps necessary to ensure that the media has a secure environment in which to do its work.


CPJ calls for nonpartisan investigation into attack

New York, December 22, 2008--Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's coalition government must carry out an open, independent, and nonpartisan investigation into Sunday's attack on Himalmedia in Kathmandu, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

According to numerous local and international media reports, about 50 activists, many of whom were supporters of Nepal's ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), swarmed into Himalmedia's offices. Himalmedia publishes the English-language weekly Nepali Times and other magazines. In a statement, the publisher said 12 people were injured during the attack, and that the group had broken windows.

The activists said they were angry with critical coverage of the Maoist-led government, which came to power in April, according to the news reports. Recent issues of Himalmedia's publications, including the Nepali Times, carried stories on "extremist behavior" by Maoists, including threats that had been made to businesses and media organizations. Today, Dahal told local reporters that his party was not directly involved in the attack, and blamed "some immoral agents" who "infiltrated" the party. Dahal promised that his government will look into the incident and prosecute those involved in the attack.

"The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has a long tradition of harassing and attacking journalists," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "In the interest of full transparency, the authorities should carry out an open, nonpartisan investigation into this attack, followed by full prosecution of the perpetrators. Anything less will not reassure the Nepalese people or the rest of the world that Prime Minister Dahal's government is committed to the free press necessary to ensure a democratic Nepal."

Journalists have long been under attack in Nepal, with little or no investigation of their deaths. The country ranks eighth on CPJ's Impunity Index, a list of 13 countries where journalists are murdered on a recurring basis and governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers.


Maoist activists attack newspaper group again: RSF

December 22, 2008- Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by a new attack by supporters of the ruling Maoist party yesterday on the offices of the Himal Media press group in Kathmandu. And when the Federation of Nepalese Journalists today staged a protest against the attack, police used violence to disperse them, injuring around a dozen journalists.

“We urge the government to take particular care to safeguard press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After the recent wave of attacks on the media, the Maoist party took no steps to punish those responsible. The government must guarantee the right of every voice to be heard by punishing violators and by not allowing its supporters to act with the impunity.”

Around 50 Maoist party supporters took part in yesterday’s attack on Himal Media, ransacking its offices and injuring CEO Ashutosh Tiwari and Kunda Dixit, the editor of one of its publications, the English-language Nepali Times.

The raid appears to have been prompted by an article in the Nepali Times and in another of the group’s publications, the Nepalese-language fortnightly, Himal Khabapatrika, accusing certain Maoist party activists of “extremist behaviour,” interfering in business interests and threatening the media.

A member of the Himal Media staff said the assailants stormed into the group’s premises, hitting employees and warning that “anything could happen if one of the group’s newspapers published anti-Maoist reports again.”
Dixit said: “These people appeared to be martial arts experts, they had military training. It was an attack not just on Himal Media but on democracy and the media in particular, which the Maoists are doing everything possible to control.”

Maoist activists previously attacked Himal Media distribution depots in the capital on 16 November, vandalising equipment and torching more than 1,000 copies of Himal Khabapatrika in the street outside.

Nepal’s Maoist prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as “Prachanda”), today promised a delegation of civil society leaders that yesterday’s attack would be investigated and those responsible would be punished.
One of the delegation’s leaders, former finance minister Devendra Raj Pandey, told Reporters Without Borders that the prime minister insisted that it was not Maoist policy to attack the media and that “immoral agents” had “infiltrated” the party. The prime minister expressed sadness about the incident and urged public opinion to help combat the “infiltrators.”

Nepal News video showing the damage to Himal Media’s offices and an interview with Kunda Dixit:


Posted by Editor on December 22, 2008 9:05 PM