The establishment needs to be censured for riding roughshod over media persons and making their calling a ‘risky affair’. This is precisely owing to the fact that there is a huge trust deficit between journalists and the government. In this context, the savage beating of The Himalayan Times (THT) Biratnagar correspondent by the security forces on Tuesday evening is downright abhorrent as it violates a journalist’s right to profess his occupation in a free and fair manner. THT scribes are not the only ones on the receiving end. If one is to go by FNJ statistics, during the past one week alone, 111 media persons were rounded up. Other than detentions, over a hundred scribes sustained injuries while covering the ongoing agitation. Also the government’s discriminatory approach while distributing curfew passes to private media houses thoroughly exposes its real intent. The authorities have to recognise the significance of the journalists’ right to free movement to present the real story devoid of any colour whatsoever. The government’s excesses have led the OHCHR-Nepal to express concern over the security forces using force against journalists.

The Fourth Estate’s role, particularly when the political gridlock has reached a dead end, becomes all the more important. The government would do well to heed the International Federation of Journalists’ call to stop the targeting of journalists and uphold their right to work in a violence-free environment. Compliance of the code of conduct to abide by international laws becomes doubly important, as Nepal is a UN member and signatory to several of its instruments. But more important is the need to respect the widespread demand for setting free all the detained journalists. The government should guarantee compensation for and rehabilitation of those affected. Above all, the guilty cops must be booked and punished to make sure that the news media can perform its duty without fear. Any effort to muzzle the press with muscle power is simply unacceptable.