Nepal UNESCO condemns attacks against journalists covering protests

10 May 2010The United Nations agency tasked with upholding press freedom today spoke out against the intimidations and attacks yesterday against journalists covering Maoist protests in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Following peaceful May Day demonstrations, the Maoists called for an extended strike, or “bandh,” amid a political stand-off with the Government.According to media reports, the strike was called off last Friday, but Maoist protestors gathered yesterday in Singha Durbar, the administrative hub of the capital.The UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) office in Kathmandu today condemned intimidations and attacks against journalists covering the demonstrations in Singha Durbar.“These attacks violate the fundamental rights of media professionals” reporting on yesterday’s events, the agency said in a press release. “But they also attack the right of everyone to receive a diversity of information and ideas.”Under no circumstances, UNESCO underscored, should journalists’ efforts to contribute to Nepal’s peace process through their reporting be obstructed.The agency said it is particularly concerned about the attacks, as they occurred just days after World Press Freedom Day was celebrated on 3 May.A decade-long civil war in Nepal that claimed some 13,000 lives ended with the signing of a peace accord between the Government and the Maoists in 2006.After conducting Constituent Assembly elections in May 2008, the country abolished its 240-year-old monarchy and declared itself a republic. But the peace process has stalled recently, threatened by tensions and mistrust between Maoists, the Government and the army.Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Representative and head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), warned the Security Council last week of “grave risks” the strike posed to the peace process.“Nepal’s peace process is at a delicate and critical moment, as negotiators work to resolve the current stand-off between Maoist supporters and the Government, primarily over Maoist demands for a national unity government.”

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