Special Correspondent

New Delhi: Decrying the monarchist regime's shoot-to-kill policy during curfew and its refusal to issue journalists with curfew passes, the International Federation of Journalists has called upon Nepal to respect both human rights norms as well as the media's right to freely report on the ongoing situation.

On April 19, at least five journalists were severely injured when security personnel opened fire on a demonstration organised by the seven opposition parties in Chandragadhi in the eastern district of Jhapa, the IFJ noted in a press release.

The injured journalists are: Umakant Khanal of Purbanchal Dainik, Narayan Khadka of Nepal Samacharpatr; Sekhar Sedhai, Tika Ram Neti and Santosh Dhakal. Mr. Dhakal, a trainee journalist, received a bullet injury to his head whereas Mr. Khanal and Mr. Khadka sustained bullet injuries to their legs. Security personnel also beat up Mr. Neti and Mr. Sedhai despite them showing their media identity cards. At least four persons were killed in the incident.

According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ)-Jhapa, security personnel indiscriminately opened fire on the protesting crowd without provocation from the demonstrators. Dozens of others also received bullet injuries. Security personnel also charged batons on the protesters, injuring over 100 people.

Call for restraint

The IFJ has called on Nepalese authorities to show restraint and respect human rights by not following the `shoot-to-kill' directive during the curfew that has been imposed in Kathmandu to prevent mass demonstrations against the monarchy. "We are imploring the government to show respect for human rights and not allow the peaceful demonstrations to turn into a bloodbath," IFJ president Christopher Warren, said. "By not recognising the Nepalese people's right to free assembly and the media's right to report freely on these activities, the king is demonstrating his complete lack of respect for the people of Nepal."

In addition to imposing the curfew the Government has extended detention orders on journalists and activists being held through the misuse of the Public Security Act. Among the journalists facing up to several months detention are Shyam Shrestha, editor of Mulyankan, a weekly newspaper, as well as Kanak Mani Dixit. Though Mr. Dixit was arrested recently, Mr. Shrestha was arrested on January 19. The IFJ says Rajendra Gautam, journalist of the Jiibisha monthly, was arrested on April 17 from his house in Lalitpur by an unidentified group.

Biswamitra Khanal, president, FNJ-Nuwakot chapter and reporter with Nepal Television was arrested on April 19 while reporting on the protest staged by Radio Nepal's employees and artists. His equipment was also seized and he is being detained at the district police office in Hanumandhoka. In another incident, police beat up BBC correspondent Narayan Karki and Nepal Television reporter Ramesh Poudel at Pokhra while they were reporting on the pro-democracy movement.