By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
Kathmandu, Nepal – On December 23rd, local Nepalese newspapers published blank editorial columns protesting a Maoist affiliated attack on Himalmedia, an English-language news publisher. On December 21st, a group of 50 union protestors stormed Himalmedia offices and attacked the employees and burned 2,500 copies of newspapers injuring 12 people.
The attack happened after the newspaper published news article was critical of Maoist affiliated trade unions and injured staff who allegedly tried to stop the news agency from publishing news that was critical of the Maoist-led government. “Trade unions in Nepal did not grow out of labor issues. Rather they were established by political parties be they Maoist unions or any other while extending their organization. They have always been mobilized to attain political ends,” said Professor Krishana Khanal, a political analyst. “The Maoists are trying to bring the media under their control through their unions.”
Maoists were a formal rebel groups in Nepal. Earlier this year, the Maoists won local elections and now have a majority in Nepal’s coalition government. However, Maoists have been criticized for using intimidating tactics to generate supporters.
Kunda Dixit, editor of Nepali Times, published by Himalmedia said, “We saw the attack as an attack on press freedom, on the values of democracy for which we fought, the media has fought, along with civil society and the democratic parties in the past… and now the threat comes from an elected Maoist government, and we thought we had to make a strong statement.”
The Maoist Prime Minister, Prachanda, denied any Maoist involvement in the attacks and promised an investigation. “The party cannot be blamed for the incident carried out by some individuals,” said Sharma Dinanath, a Maoist spokesman. “The government will investigate and take action against the guilty.”
Reporters Without Borders condemned the recent attacks on Himalmedia saying, “Threats and assaults against the media are escalating,” and “The Prime Minister, Prachanda, should keep his promise and launch an investigation to ensure the guilty are punished.”
For more information please see:
APF – Nepal Media Protest Against Maoist Union Attack – 23 December 200
RSF – Militant Maoists Continue Their Attacks Against the Media – 23 December 2008
VOA – Nepal Media Protests Attack by Maoist Activists – 23 December 2008