Kathmandu : The powerful trade union affiliated to the Maoists Tuesday said it would enforce a shutdown of trade and transport countrywide 24 hours later, including Nepal’s media organisations.
The All Nepal Trade Union Federation-Revolutionary has called the strike Wednesday as part of the series of disruptive protests called by the parent party to force the government into agreeing to censure President Ram Baran Yadav, who the Maoists hold responsible for the fall of their government.
Issuing a press statement, the Maoist trade union said that since media organisations were also part of a worker-based industry, they too would be brought under the purview of the strike.
In the past, all strikes had allowed the media to work unhindered, along with essential services.
The declaration was greeted with protests and consternation by the republic’s vibrant media that condemned it as an attack on the basic right of citizens to knowledge.
Media Society, an organisation of officials from the country’s biggest media groups, issued a counter-statement Tuesday, saying the proposed attack on the media would imperil the very civilian supremacy the Maoists claimed to be fighting for.
“The right to information is an integral part of the right to live,” said Gunaraj Luitel, associate editor of Nepali daily Nagarik.
“It is a basic right of all human beings.
“The Maoists are trying to suppress that under various pretexts.”
Luitel said that Nepal’s media was active in upholding the rights of workers. So by targeting them during Wednesday’s strike, the Maoists were trying to muzzle the media.
After they signed a peace agreement and ended their armed insurgency, the Maoists, despite their promise not to attack the media, had made attempts to disrupt the working of at least four media houses in the capital.
However, the ensuing public outcry forced them to back off.
While the Maoists were responsible for the killing of several journalists during the insurgency, the attacks continued even after they renounced violence and returned to mainstream politics.
One of the most controversial cases was the abduction and murder of journalist Birendra Shah in November 2007.
Though four Maoists were said to have been behind the killing of the Terai journalist for writing about sandalwood smuggling with the connivance of the former guerrillas, the party leadership turned a deaf ear to calls by human rights groups and journalists to hand over the guilty cadre for punishment.
Last week, the UN rights agency in Nepal, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was concerned that despite repeated calls and concerns expressed by it, the Maoists were said to have appointed two of the four suspects named in the police complaint, to the post of secretariat members of the party’s Bara district committee.