Guru Prasad Gautum, secretary of a local chapter of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, remained hospitalized today after police beat him severely in the stomach during a protest yesterday in Kailaya, a town in the Bara district, south of the Kathmandu Valley, according to news reports. At least eight other journalists were injured when police baton-charged the rally, which was organized to protest this week's detention of more than 50 journalists in the capital, Kathmandu, according to local news reports.
In the town of Butwal in western Nepal, police yesterday briefly detained another nine journalists, including FNJ Rupandehi district secretary Deepak Gyawali, who were also protesting the detention of their colleagues in Kathmandu, according to CPJ sources. Six journalists were hurt when police used their batons to round up protesters, journalist Dilip Bhattarai told CPJ from Butwal.
The journalists in Kathmandu were released from police custody yesterday. They had been detained while protesting the government's proposals to codify emergency press restrictions by amending the media law.
Demonstrations continued today in the capital, as radio journalists protested a ban on broadcasting FM news radio by reading news reports over loudspeakers in the street. Police did not interfere with that demonstration.
Also yesterday, the Ministry of Information and Communication responded to a Supreme Court order that the government explain its ban on private FM news broadcasting, according to local news reports. The ministry explained that its ban did not cover all FM broadcasting, but only "specific news programs." Hundreds of radio journalists are out of work following a February ban on the private broadcasting of political news.
The government is asking the court to dismiss a complaint filed by journalist Binod Dhungel challenging the FM news ban. The court did not take immediate action on the government's request.
Abducted journalist released
In a separate development, Maoist rebels released Kantipur daily reporter Bikram Giri, who was abducted last week in the far western Darchula district, Kantipur news editor Gunaraj Luitel told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Rebels abducted the reporter June 3 while he was traveling near the village of Changru, according to the online version of Kantipur. The journalist's release followed appeals to the Maoists by the FNJ. It is unclear why Giri was abducted.
Som Sharma, a reporter for the weekly newspaper Aankha, remains missing and is suspected to be in Maoist custody after he was abducted from his home in the eastern district of Ilam nearly a month ago, according to Nepalnews.com.
"Journalists in Nepal face great risks from both Maoist rebels and the government as they fight to practice their profession," CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. "We call on both sides to respect the rights of journalists to report the news."