Nepal opens probe against journalists for publishing news on Dalai Lama’s health

Journalists protesting against new laws that threaten to curb media freedoms. Kathmandu, Nepal, September 19, 2018. Image: AP

DHARAMSALA, 14 May: Three journalists in Nepal are being investigated by the state for publishing a news item on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s health in April 2019.

The three journalists – Mohani Risal, Somnath Lamichhanne and Jivan Bhandari from the Rastriya Samachar Samiti, Nepal’s national news agency are being probed for translating and disseminating an ANI report on the Dalai Lama’s return to Dharamsala after receiving treatment at a private hospital in Delhi for a chest infection, reports The Kathmandu Post.

The investigation was initiated by Nepal’s Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota, the report added.

The RSS Chairperson Shyam Prasad Adhikari has formed a four-member probe committee under Dilliram Bhattarai, a member of the RSS board after he was summoned by the minister and ordered to start an investigation.

The report was published by the journalists working at the English desk of the news agency when the Nepalese President was on a state visit to China and the Minister for Communications and Information Technology has justified opening the probe over its ‘timing’.

“Tibet issue is sensitive for China and dissemination of a report regarding the Dalai Lama by the state-run news agency–particularly during President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s state visit to China–was against Nepal’s commitment to One-China policy,” Baskota was quoted as saying in the report.

However, it is being suspected that the probe was initiated after concerns were raised by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu.

“An official from Xinhua, the Chinese state-owned news agency, had visited the RSS chairman the day after the news was published on online outlets,” the report said citing an unnamed RSS reporter to avert reprisals.

The development came at a time when the freedom of expression was on the wane in the country. The Human Rights Watch has called on Nepal to stop the prosecution of journalists and netizens freedom of expression earlier in April.

“The authorities in Nepal should stop prosecuting journalists and social media users for peaceful reporting and online expression,” Human Rights Watch, has said.

The New York-based rights group has said that Nepal under the government of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli has used the “ Electronic Transactions Act, 2006,  repeatedly to unlawfully muzzle speech,” and urged Nepal to review and reform the Act to ‘ensure that any new or revised legislation upholds freedom of expression.’

Meanwhile, the journalists facing the probe have already submitted their clarifications in writing and had met with Adhikari, the RSS chairman and expressed their reservations about the working environment and the lack of press freedom, the report concluded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *