Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Exiled Bhutanese journalists ‘intimidated’

By: T P Mishra
Source: www.mediahelpingmedia.org

At a time when violence is escalating inside the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, exiled journalists working in the camps are increasingly reporting having received threats from the local authorities.

Bhutanese journalists working in exile in Nepal have long-faced pressure and intimidation as they go about their work, but with an increase in disputes inside the refugee camps, journalists, who are working on a voluntary basis, now fear for their own safety and security.

The Bhutanese exiled journalists aim to offer those living in the refugee camps their fundamental right to information. Their work on their behalf for promoting individual’s right to information must not be threatened.

The arrest of Bhola Siwakoti, general secretary of the Bhutan Press Union , by Nepalese police in October with no reason given, is just one instance of how members of the local administration treats exiled Bhutanese journalists.

The Armed Police Force (APF) personnel, based near the refugee camp in Beldangi-I have asked Arjun Pradhan, a correspondent with the Bhutan News Service (BNS), the only news agency run by refugee journalists, to sign in a register kept at the base camp each day.

The authorities said this was necessary because Pradhan had reported a case of the shooting of a refugee youth from Beldangi-I camp. Journalists working in camps cannot work freely under such harassment from the local authority.
There is a need for Bhutanese organisations in exile, aid agencies and individuals, to extend their support to the refugee journalists and their organisations in exile at this time.

The press bodies established in exile to promote media freedom, freedom of speech and expression in Bhutan are determined to continue to promote the right of the refugee population to freedom of information.

These organisations, including the Bhutan Press Union (BPU), the Third World Media Network – (TWMN) Bhutan Chapter and the Association of Press Freedom Activists – (APFA) Bhutan have issued a joint ‘Exile Declaration’ to work together under the banner of the BNS.

The harassment of any independent exiled journalists is viewed as an attack on the BNS, which would adversely affect the smooth functioning of news agency. The BNS is calling on international press bodies to put pressure on the local authorities managing the refugee camps to allow Bhutan’s journalists in exile to continue to work independently and in a safe and secure atmosphere.

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