KATHMANDU, Sept 5: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed its serious concern over the defamation lawsuit filed against Nagarik daily at Kathmandu District Court saying that it was intended to silence a daily newspaper in Kathmandu.
The IFJ believed the court will issue an exemplary verdict protecting the press freedom.
Gopal Khadka, the Managing Director of state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) filed a defamation case against Nagarik daily, claiming Rs 800 million (US$ 780,000) in damages on August 17, 2017. The Kathmandu District Court official served a notice to Nepal Republic Media’s (NRM) Managing Director Binod Raj Gyawali, Director Shova Gyawali, editor-in-chief Guna Raj Luitel and correspondent Dilip Paudel on September 1.
“The IFJ expresses serious concerns over the defamation case filed by the chief of a state-owned agency against a newspaper reporting about corruption,” said the IFJ in a statement issued on Tuesday. “The strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) has been a tool to censor and silence media around the world and the IFJ urges Nepal to ensure a mechanism to discourage such false lawsuits aimed at critical voice and investigative journalism.”
A parliamentary probe committee has investigated the issue and concluded that procurement procedures were not followed in purchase of the lands.
Earlier, Ramesh Bista, the FNJ General Secretary, had said: “The FNJ respects Khadka’s right to file the case in the court. However, the case seems to be intended to discourage reporting against corruption, create chilling effect in media, and burden financial difficulties to the media and journalists. The FNJ is confident that the Court’s verdict will uphold Nepal’s law, international standards of press freedom and principles of investigative journalism.”
Khadka had previously issued a threat to journalist Paudel for his reporting on corruption issues on Nagarik daily.