Police doing little to curb attacks on pressThere have been repeated incidents of press vehicles being vandalised and torched by protesters. Even where police are present in close proximity, they refuse to act, eyewitnesses say.
There have been repeated incidents of press vehicles being vandalised and torched by protesters. Even where police are present in close proximity, they refuse to act, eyewitnesses say.
On Sunday, SLMM protesters torched a vehicle belonging to Kantipur Publications, the company that publishes this newspaper, in Parsa district, claiming that the media outlet had been publishing “anti-Madhes news”.
A similar incident occurred in February earlier this year in which a vehicle carrying the copies of Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post dailies was set on fire at Bharat Chowk in Kalaiya, the district headquarters of Bara. Activists of the Nepali Congress and the Madhes-based parties had induced locals to torch the vehicles accusing the newspapers of not prioritising their news on the front page.
A report on the government’s decision to relocate land revenue and survey offices to Simara and the locals protest against the plan was published in detail on the second page of Kantipur.
An enraged group of around 15 had in February set the Publications vehicle (Na 1 Cha 4336) alight, threatening the distributor. The police did nothing to stop the miscreants. After the vehicle was gutted, Superintendent of Police Lokendra Bahadur Malla said they had identified the persons involved in the arson. Malla had assured of arresting the suspects but they have not held till date.
Kantipur Publications distributor Hiralal Rumba said the arson took place in front of policemen. After the police did not take legal action against the suspects, a year later Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) supporters on Sunday torched Kantipur Publications vehicle (Ba 13 Cha 495) and manhandled the publication staff.
Policemen at the Parwanipur post, which is 300 meters away, were unknown about the attack. Police not only were mute spectators, but they failed to arrest the suspects. Meanwhile, Morcha leaders are denying their involvement in the arson.
SP Malla said Bara police will investigate into the matter as the incident site is on the border of Bara and Parsa districts. “We will take action against the culprits,” said SP Malla.
Meanwhile, Shital Mahato, coordinator of the central development regional chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, said the press should not be threatened
or pressurised on any pretext. “Press should be free in disseminating news,” said Mahato.
Subarna Karmacharya, chief of the National Human Rights Commission’s regional office in Janakpur, police should provide security for the press and arrest those involved in unlawful activities. “Police cannot be mute spectators in such incidents,” he said.
SLMM double standard
Although SLMM leader Mahantha Thakur had assured the media as the Madhes agitation emerged that they supported press freedom, Morcha cadres have been attacking the media.
“Morcha leaders said one thing and did another,” said a professor in Tarai preferring anonymity, referring to the continued attacks on the media in Tarai districts. Rakesh Pandey, an FNJ member, said the SLMM protesters were trying to control the Tarai media.
Morcha leader Rambabu Yadav clarified that they have no reservations against independent media.
“However, media houses have not highlighted positive aspects of the Madhes protest,” he said, blaming the tendency on the Tarai unrest that threatens to spiral out of control.