At least 117 journalists injured in pro-democracy demonstrations

Reporters Without Borders condemns reprisals against journalists working for government media

Reporters Without Borders has paid tribute to the courage of Nepalese journalists who braved a targeted onslaught on the press to cover popular demonstrations which led to the restoration of parliamentary democracy.

The press freedom organisation recorded at least 117 cases of journalists suffering physical attacks and injury - including a score from bullet wounds - inflicted on them by the security forces, while they were covering pro-democracy demonstrations.
It said that in the majority of cases reporters, who were clearly identifiable, were deliberately targeted by the police.

”Police brutality which caused the death of at least 15 people and left more than two thousand more injured between the 6 and 17 April 2006, would never have been made known to international public opinion, if Nepalese journalists had not taken considerable risks to do their job,” said the organisation, member of a coalition on Nepal of 11 international press freedom organisations.

“Journalists who were injured or had equipment damaged should be awarded compensation. The police force should also be reformed so that there is no repetition of such violence,” it added.
Among the 117 injury cases were Tilak Koirala and Janak Pandit, reporters for Nepal One television, who were clubbed by police officers, in Kathmandu on 23 April. Five journalists suffered bullet wounds on 19 April in the eastern district of Jhapa. Narayan Khadka of Nepal FM reported live on the demonstrations despite a leg wound.

Deergharaj Thapa of the weekly Budhabar, was left with a broken leg after police clubbed him in Dailekh (West) on the 15 April. On 10 April, a score of police officers beat four journalists working for the privately-owned Kantipur press group while they were covering a demonstration in the capital.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the fact that journalists working for the government press have recently fallen victim to reprisals. “Their coverage of the people’s protest movement was largely favourable to the dictatorial regime of King Gyanendra, but that cannot justify violence against journalists working for state media or close to the government” it said.

Militants set upon journalists on the government press after King Gyanendra announced the restoration of parliament. Demonstrators vandalised the offices of Shankar Thapa, correspondent for Radio Nepal in Dipayal, in the west of the country on 25 April. On the same day, the home of Nawaraj Pahari, who chairs an organisation of royalist journalists, was ransacked in Lamjung.

Finally, more than 220 journalists were questioned or arrested while demonstrating for press freedom or carrying out their jobs. Only two journalists are still being held in custody in Nepal: Rajendra Gautam of the weekly Jeejibisa, and Tej Narayan Sapkota of the weekly Yojana.

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