In Nepal, police beat journalists covering protests

New York, September 14, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns police brutality against journalists covering pro-democracy protests in Nepal. Radio journalist Tilak Mahat received four stitches on his head yesterday after police beat him at a protest at Bagh Bazar in the capital, Kathmandu.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) said yesterday that police appeared to be violently targeting journalists covering the tense protests that stretched into an 11th consecutive day today.

“We deplore the brutal use of force against Tilak Mahat, who was attacked while doing his job,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Journalists must be allowed to report on the recent volatile protests and the actions of the police. We call on authorities to protect journalists covering these events, and to ensure that no journalists are attacked or threatened in an effort to inhibit coverage.”

Police used tear gas and batons against protesters who are calling for a return to democracy and a restoration of multi-party rule. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested.

Mahat, a reporter for Rupandehi FM in western Nepal, was showing his press card when he was attacked, according to the FNJ and local news reports. He was taken to Miteree Hospital yesterday for treatment.

A second journalist, photographer Suresh Sainju, also sought treatment yesterday for minor injuries sustained while covering the protests, according to the FNJ. Other journalists told FNJ that they were beaten by baton-wielding police, or targeted with tear gas.

Local media have reported several police assaults against journalists during protests over the last two weeks. On September 6, Bharat Shahi, editor of Chuli Sandesh weekly, was seriously injured during a protest in Kathmandu when police beat him in the head and groin. He was hospitalized after losing consciousness due to the beating.

Some journalists also reported being threatened after witnessing police using excessive force against protesters, according to the FNJ