Deluged journos

That Nepal is one of the most dangerous places for working journalists has now been validated by a report by a New York-based media watchdog known as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Journalists here have been facing repeated assaults which escalated during the conflict and, unfortunately, which still continue after the Constituent Assembly election and the formation of a new coalition government. There have been widespread accusations, and with valid reasons, that the authorities are not doing enough to protect the journalists who are very vulnerable to such attacks. At least five journalists

have been slain, the latest being the murders of radio journalists Uma Singh and Dekendra Raj Thapa. Despite repeated assurances from the government that those responsible for these heinous attacks would be found and punished, they have yet to be brought to book and made to pay for what they have done. This gives the impression that those responsible for such loathsome acts can manage to go scot-free, and it is even alleged that political patronage has been provided to murderers, and that has strengthened impunity. The associations of media here have been strongly protesting, but their cause, for all purposes, seems to be falling on deaf ears, and working journalists are having to work in a climate of fear. There are many instances of journalists being displaced from their workplace because of threats, sometimes to their life.

Thus, the CPJ lists Nepal as one of the most unsafe places in the world where journalists meet a violent end and the government fails to provide security. This has many consequences and can even be seen as a bid to throttle the free press and deny the right of the people to information. So all those concerned should see that journalists are not targeted so that they can work in a more congenial atmosphere and they are able to disseminate factual news without bias and fear. Unfortunately, those guilty have no fear because of impunity which further encourages more threats and assaults on journalists. This should not be allowed to go on for the sake of freedom of the press that plays such an important role, particularly in this transitional period of the country.

Since the state is found in many cases protecting those responsible for the attacks, the situation must change with the government heeding the dire need for freedom of the press and reform itself. The law should be activated to guarantee the security of journalists, that may mean dispensing the severest form of punishment to those carrying out such barbaric attacks. This would serve as a deterrent, but this alone is not sufficient. Everyone should realize the nature of the job of the working journalists and allow them to work unhindered. However, we find that they are often denied access to information hindering the right to information and its significance and importance in the lives of ordinary people. Taking all these into account, let remedial measures be taken with immediate effect showing concern for the working journalists’ security and their livelihood. Meanwhile, it is a matter of shame for all Nepalese that attacks are continuing against the journalists, and, as of now, little is being done about them.