KATHMANDU, Dec 21: In a blatant attack on freedom of expression and right to information, an unruly mob stormed the offices of Nepal Republic Media at JDA Complex, Sundhara and manhandled journalists and office staff, Thursday afternoon.
The hooligans, who shouted "Shiva Sena Jindabad", forcibly entered the offices of the media house, which publishes Republica and Nagarik dailies and Shukrabar weekly, and assaulted Kishor Nepal, editor-in-chief of Nagarik and Shukrabar.
Though the Shiva Sena ´cadres´ claimed to be visiting the office to express their dissatisfaction over content in Shukrabar, they did not give any opportunity to Nepal and other journalists to explain. Despite consistent requests by the journalists for a peaceful dialogue, the mob stormed into the office and threatened to burn it down.
The hooligans not only manhandled Nepal but several other journalists, including Sudarshan Sapkota, Bishwomani Pokharel, Rajendra Gyawali, Sworoop Acharya and Madan Chaudhary received blows and kicks in the fracas.
They also misbehaved with Sabina Shrestha, a receptionist, who tried to stop them from entering the office. They likewise attacked security guards Shyam Bahadur Phunyal and Sher Bahadur Gurung. They even collected several copies of the newspapers and tried to burn them right inside the newsroom.
But timely intervention by police stopped the situation from going out of control. Police had to call in reinforcements to control the mob.
“This is an attempt to fish in troubled waters at a time when the country is in transition," said Kishor Nepal. "Many groups try this sort of thing to gain cheap popularity.” He deplored the attack and termed it an attack against free press and right to information.
Police have detained at least a dozen individuals who later turned out to be members of the Shiva Sena Nepal. Those arrested include Shiva Sena general secretary Madhab Prasad Bhandari, 34, of Makawanpur along with 12 wing leaders of the group.
The other arrested are Kathmandu district president Srijana Sapkota, 25, of Kathmandu, youth wing president Kumar Ghimire, 37, of Sankhuwasabha, crime investigation department head Saroj Lama, 34, of Dhading, Valley youth in-charge Gopal Shrestha, 34, of Kathmandu, office secretary Ashish Dahal, 27, of Jhapa, sports department chief Sarita Sapkota, 32, of Siraha, organizational head Ganesh Lal Shrestha, 55, of Kaski, advisor Raghuraj Bhandari, 39, of Kathmandu and Hiramani Khanal, Bindu Oli, Lila Kumar Tamang and Gaurab Raj Shahi, all district level members.
Police are preparing to bring charges under the Public Offense Act against those arrested, after further investigations, according to Deputy Inspector General (DIG) designate Jaya Bahadur Chand.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Arun BC, the arrested have claimed that they were at the media house for a dialogue with the editors about the news and photos published.
“According to a preliminary investigation, they were intentionally attacking media persons and further investigations will be carried out after they are remanded by court,” he said.
Media organizations denounce attack
Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and several other media organizations have denounced the attack on journalists and demanded proper investigations and strict action against the attackers.
FNJ issued a press statement saying, “The attack on Nepal Republic Media in broad daylight is an instance of how unsafe the Nepali press is.” The government should assure an environment conducive to working in a fearless environment, FNJ further states.
Shiva Gaule, president of FNJ, after visiting the Nepal Republic Media office, said, “FNJ will force the government to investigate the incident and the vested interests behind the attack.”
Nepal Media Society, Press Chautari Nepal, Broadcasting Association of Nepal, Community Information Network (CIN), journalists associations affiliated with UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist, the Republica, Karobar, THT, Communication Corner, News 24, Rajdhani, SEJON and Terai TV chapters of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists and the Photojournalists Club (PJ), an umbrella organization of photojournalists working in various media, and FNJ Udayapur, in separate statements, have condemned the attack and demanded stern action against those involved.