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Four journalists detained while taking videos of 'alleged gold smuggling' at airport

Four journalists were detained for five hours by the Tribhuvan International Airport authority from the airport on May 31 for shooting video of reportedly smuggling activities.

Police took TV Annapurna online television journalists Raj Kumar Bista, Raju Subedi, Bimal Khadka, and Sharmila Subedi for questioning and kept them in detention until they agreed to delete a video taken at exit of the airport.

According to journalist Raju Subedi and Bista, a police officer took them for questioning and threatened to jail if they didn't delete a video capturing his involvement in helping a woman reportedly involved in smuggling from the airport, to carry her bag.

"They seized our camera, mobile and all communication equipments and didn't allow to contact anywhere for five hours. We had to go through mental torture and threatening in detention," said Bista.

The journalists were reached to the airport for reporting with several cameras following a tip off about smuggled gold arriving at Kathmandu airport through Fly Dubai from United Arab Emirates. Kathmandu airport has been exposed as an area prone to gold smuggling after arrest of a smuggling racket and police officers for colluding to escape the smuggled gold from the security checking at the only international airport.

Journalist Bista claimed the police forcefully deleted the video fearing of his wrong doing would be made public. "They have also threatened us of grave consequences if we released the video through any means. We want investigation about the activities of the police and our security to the government and organizations working for journalists' rights," said journalist Subedi.

According to the journalists, the video was taken inside the airport premises after prior consent from the airport authority and police officer.

However, SSP Dev Bahadur Bogati of Nepal Police claimed that the journalists were never detained but token at the office of aviation department for questioning for shooting inside the airport without permission. "They had asked me for permission but I suggested them to take permission from aviation department but the department found them while taking video without the permission from the office," said SSP Bogati. The police also claimed that their mobile phones were not seized but asked not to record audio during the police questioning and the case settled after journalists agreed to delete the video taken without having permission.

Freedom Forum vehemently condemns the state agencies including the security officials at Tribhuvan International Airport for such intimidation, obstruction and hostility meted out to the journalists.

Investigative journalism is suppressed by the security officials, which is condemnable that it has flatly violated the press freedom. The torture meted out to journalists taking them under control is equally abhorring. The security agency must admit the violation of press freedom and help create respect to journalists.

Freedom Forum

Thapathali, Kathmandu

Post Box No: 24292

Phone No. 4102030, 4102022

Website: www.nepalpressfreedom.org; www.freedomforum.org.np

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