KATHMANDU, Jan 27: Journalists in Mahottari district were barred from reporting an event on Saturday participated by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, among other leaders from the ruling Maoist party, as the local journalists planned a symbolic protest demanding action against those involved in murdering a Dailekh-based journalist some eight years ago.
The local journalists had placards with slogans such as "Bring the murderers of Dekendra to book, end impunity" pinned on their chests.
As a group of them led by the district chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) reached the place, security personnel stopped them from entering the venue.
After some rounds of debate with security personnel, Chief District Officer of Mahottari, Madhusudan Burlakoti, came to talk to the journalists.
"We repeatedly told the CDO that we were there mainly for reporting though we would carry out a symbolic protest demanding security for journalists and end to impunity," Nagendra Karna, acting chief of FNJ Mahottari chapter, told Republica. "We therefore boycotted the event."
A meeting of the FNJ district chapter then denounced the barring of journalists from the political event.
CDO Burlakoti said he had suggested to the journalists to remove their placards before entering the venue to cover the event. "I suggested to the mediapersons to wear black armbands if they wanted to carry out their work while continuing a symbolic protest," Burlakoti told Republica. "But I didn´t allow them to enter the place with placards."
According to Burlakoti, the journalists had assured him there would not be any sloganeering and or rally at the venue. "But I didn´t allow them to carry placards because it is not good to stage a demonstration at a venue where a political party program is already underway," he explained.
The CDO claimed that he was not under any instruction from the prime minister to bar the journalists though the prime minister was briefed about their protests outside the venue. "It is obvious that there was a general briefing to the prime minister about the situation but the decision was taken by the local authorities," he said.
Journalists across the country have been staging protests for a couple of weeks demanding action against those involved in the killing of journalist Dekendra Thapa, who was brutally murdered by the Maoists during the conflict era some eight years ago.
As some of the Maoists have already admitted brutally killed Dekendra Thapa, FNJ has launched a nationwide campaign demanding that those involved in the cold-blooded murder be brought to book.
But the prime minister has been arguing that the issue falls under the to-be-formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission and that the government can´t allow the singling out of one war-era incident in isolation.