Police defy High Court order to arrest journalist and media managerAnil Tamang and DL Tamang of ujyaalonetwork.com news website were arrested for publishing document bearing purported signatures of KP Oli and Samant Goel.
Against the High Court’s ruling police on Sunday arrested a journalist of a news website and its manager for publishing a news report accusing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli of forging an agreement with the chief of an Indian intelligence agency.
The Metropolitan Police Range Kathmandu arrested Anish Tamang, the executive editor ujyaalonetwork.com, and DL Tamang, general manager of the news website, on charges of forgery, sedition and violation of the Electronic Transactions Act. On April 15, the ujyaalonetwork.com along with six other online news media had published reports claiming that Prime Minister Oli had forged a four-point deal with Samant Kumar Goel, the chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing, during the latter's visit to Kathmandu in October last year.
All the seven news websites had published a document bearing purported signatures of Oli and Goel. The editors of all the seven news websites later apologised admitting their mistakes and removed the news item from their websites. The Press Council, a media regulatory body, also sought written clarifications from the websites. The editors had presented themselves before the Council and apologized over the matter.
They also received orientation training on the journalists’ code of conduct at the council and vowed not to repeat such mistakes. The police attempted to arrest the editors prompting them to knock on the High Court’s door for an order against any police action. The Patan High Court on Friday directed the police not to arrest any journalists just for publishing news reports or articles.
But on Sunday, in defiance of the court order, police arrested the Tamang duo from their office at Anamnagar. “The court order doesn’t stop us from investigating criminal cases,” Senior Superintendent of Police Ashok Singh, chief of the Metropolitan Police Range, Kathmandu, told the Post. “The investigation into the case is underway.” The police had reached ujyaalonetwork.com’s office on Sunday afternoon to arrest the duo but without arrest warrants. Later, they presented arrest warrants issued Tuesday by the Kathmandu District Court.
The High Court’s decision came three days after the district court’s green signal for the arrests. Birendra Oli, vice-chair of the Kathmandu Chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists who was present during their arrests, said Anish told him that they had published what they received from their ‘source’ and were not involved in producing the document bearing the purported signatures of the prime minister and the chief of the Indian spy agency.
“Our news source gave us the document and we published thinking it was a scoop,” Birendra quoted Anish as saying. Oli said it seems it was an unintentional mistake that occurred in the lack of proper gatekeeping.
The Federation of Nepali Journalists has expressed serious objections over the arrests saying the police defied the High Court’s ruling. Stating that the act is an attack on press freedom and right to expression, it has demanded their immediate release. “This is not just a violation of the democratic principles but also the constitution,” said Roshan Puri, the general secretary of the federation. “The arrests also show the government doesn’t respect the court’s order.” He said the federation will resort to protests if the two are not released immediately. The federation also has asked the government and the police administration to stop intimidating the media.