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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

Editorials Decry Attack on Journalists

Sample of national newspaper editorials in English decrying recent attack on journalists.

Editorials Decry Attack on Biratnagar Journalist
Nepali journalists are once again on a warpath following attack on journalists around the country. Once incident in particular last week, in which CPN-UML affiliated Youth Force cadres beat up a journalist Khil Nath Dhakal, a correspondent of Nagarik and Republica Dailies, in Biratnagar, provoked editorials in major daily newspapers. Here are a few samples from the English dailies:

Arrest Basnet (Republica)
Even eight days after Republica's Biratnagar Correspondent Khilanath Dhakal was nearly murdered by Youth Force goons, the mastermind behind the attack Parshuram Basnet is yet to be arrested. Since the attempt on Dhakal's life on June 5, a lot of water has flown under the bridge making a compelling case for the arrest and trial of Basnet: The victim who managed to save his life by the skin of his teeth has spoken out on what happened during that fateful night; newspapers across the country have written extensively about the incident as well as Basnet's criminal history; Federation of Nepali Journalists, the umbrella organization of journalists of the country, has laid the blame squarely on Basnet for masterminding the attack after conducting a field study. Yet the police have refrained from arresting him. Let us not live under the illusion that he is "absconding." If he can talk to the media from his "secret" location, our police must be utterly incompetent not to be able to apprehend him. That certainly is not the case. Instead, this is one clear example of political protection riding roughshod over our law and justice system. What a shame!

In a functional system, Basnet would have been behind bars a long time back. But sadly, bowing to political pressure, the administration in Biratnagar refused to act even when complaints were registered against him. This time around he should have been arrested immediately after his gang's attempted murder of Abhishek Giri while he was being taken to be presented before a judge on June 1. That was not to be. Dhakal was attacked on Basnet's instruction for reporting the same attack. Basnet's non-involvement in the incident can, thus, not be justified by any alibi.

Is the arrest, trial and punishment mechanism only applicable to those without any power and pelf? Isn't the state equally responsible for protecting the dignity of all its citizens? If it is, why is Basnet not being arrested and tried in a court of law? When even a journalist with the backing of the media fails to get justice, we wonder what happens to the teeming millions who have no backing whatsoever.

Arresting Basnet's henchmen is not enough. He must be brought to book. In fact, even politicians who harbor relations with criminals and use them as per their liking must be punished. The political-criminal nexus has to come to an end. Nothing would be more unfortunate than letting Basnet off the hook this time. Among other things, it will serve to send out an unfortunate message to many anti-social elements like him that they can get off with anything and everything they want provided they have the political backing. The media must relentlessly keep piling pressure on the government to do the right thing.

June 14, 2011

Unabashed impunity (The Himalayan Times)
Journalists seem to be under threat on all fronts for being true to the profession, that is for unbiased and true news reports and commentaries. In fact, there are many people, whether the cadres of political parties or businesspeople or the armed outfits, among others, who do not take lightly the journalists writing factual news reports of the misdeeds or financial misappropriations. That is what brings the ire in the form of physical assaults on the journalist concerned. It was there during the Maoist insurgency days, and it is still today even when the country has become a republic, but, unfortunately, weak law and order and impunity is rife. Being a cadre of a political party brings in a lot of privileges even to the extent of calling the shots in the appointment of his/her men in the police station. The recent case is that of a Nagarik reporter Khilanath Dhakal being allegedly beaten up in Biratnagar on June 5, almost fatally by the henchmen of Parshuram Basnet of the CPN-UML's Youth Force of Morang district. As the police have not been able to arrest the alleged mastermind, there is more to the picture than has been reflected so far. In all the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), through its four member Media Mission, has pinpointed Basnet as being the brain behind the physical assault on Dhakal who is recuperating presently. The FNJ mission has gone to the extent of mentioning it in their report that the accused person has not been booked because "the local administration, police and political leadership have an unholy nexus with Basnet". This is a serious allegation by all counts and reflects how the UML-led government is not assisting in getting the prime accused arrested. Despite the fact that Prime Minister

Jhala Nath Khanal is also the chief of the UML, he has not taken any initiative in bringing justice to the assaulted journalist. This speaks of the UML's patronage provided.

When the government should have gone the extra mile to assure the people that it is making all out efforts to maintain law and order, the Dhakal-assault incident has raised accusing fingers at the government's incompetence. The Biratnagar police administration, by showing reluctance to arrest the accused, specifically hints at the nexus that exists between them and those of the criminal bent. And, coming around the journalists have to bear the brunt of clinging to professionalism. The government, by trying to shield the main accused for the assault on Dhakal, has once again bared its true picture--no respect for those who do not belong to their party. That even the Home Minister is dissatisfied at the protection that UML is providing to Basnet speaks for the greatest degree of political patronage to criminal activities by its cadres.

What all it brings to the fore is that the rule of law is nowhere to be seen. This has agitated the FNJ so much that it has announced a series of protest programmes so that the culprit is brought to book and faces punishment. It is not asking too much from the government whose duty bounds it to protect the life and property of the citizens. Here, it has utterly failed because of its partisan interests.

June 12, 2011

Politics of patronage (The Kathmandu Post)
The harbouring of thugs by political parties must end
The recent attack on Republica and Nagarik's Biratnagar-based correspondent Khilanath Dhakal, is a telling example of the continued violence against the media in this country. Dhakal was attacked last Sunday night by the district president of the UML's Youth Force, Parshuram Basnet, and two other aides. This is a clear case of political parties providing patronage to thugs and we condemn such activity. Nepal ranks seventh in the world for violence against the media, according to the New York based media watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Seven journalist have been murdered since 1992, according to CPJ. None of these cases have been solved-leaving the culprits off-the-hook. Most of those involved in the killings are said to have wider political affiliations. Clearly, the attack on Dhakal is not the first-of-its-kind, but rather another blotch on Nepal's bleak impunity record.

Needless to say, the culprits in the Dhakal attack--namely Basnet and his aides Rohit Koirala and Manoj Rai must be held accountable. The attackers' affiliation with the Youth Force is a serious cause for concern and this case must also be addressed by the party leadership. In this phase of national transition, the implications of such cases are far-reaching. Journalists are faced with the tough task of reporting when the country is most fragile and problems of accountability and ownership are high. The need for responsible journalism is at its peak, and yet journalists are in a most vulnerable situation. In this particular case, the UML must take up the issue not only as a democratic political party, but also as the party that head s the current government, and thus twice accountable for the safeguarding of all citizens. It is almost preposterous that Dhakal came under attack from Basnet and his aides, and yet the former is still threatening journalists to withdraw the formal complaint that has been filed against him. The courage of the journalists who went ahead and filed the complaint must be noted.

Nepal's culture of impunity and political patronage must come to an end. In light of the recent attack, an investigation must be carried out and Basnet and his aides brought to trial. Some hope did surface on May 30 however, when the two men responsible for the murder of journalist Birendra Shah in 2007 were finally sentenced to life imprisonment. The two culprits are said to have been associated with the Maoists at the time. But the prime accused in the case, who the Maoists have termed as rogue party members still remain at large. Political parties must co-operate with local authorities in bringing criminals to justice. The harbouring of thugs by political parties is unacceptable and undermines the very essence of democratic culture. It is thus encouraging that PM Jhala Nath Khanal on Thursday has pledged to investigate the case of Khilanath Dhakal and bring those responsible to book. This is not only necessary, but also the government's responsibility.

June 9, 2011

Posted by Editor on June 14, 2011 9:35 AM