From The Nepali Press
Prakash Pokhrel in Samaya, 2 December
FROM ISSUE #225 (10 DEC 2004 - 16 DEC 2004) | TABLE OF CONTENTS
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I travelled to Tamghas via Palpa to report on civilians trapped by war. I reached Ridi Bajar at 9AM. A woman at a tea stall said she hadn't seen security forces here for three years. "Everything we do is controlled by the people's government," she said matter-of-factly. I reached Baletaksar Bajar around 10.30 AM and was surprised to find an army patrol there, completely contradicting what the woman had said. They asked me some questions and waved me on. The road entered a forest, the road was steep and I was on first gear. At 10.45 AM an army patrol stopped me. "Take your helmet off," he ordered and slapped me hard on my cheek a couple of times. "What have I done, why are you hitting me?" I asked. He hit me again. There were other soldiers watching us. I kept telling him I was a journalist and asked him why he was hitting me. Another soldier walked towards me and said: "He's a journalist, beat him up." He started pushing and kicking me. I was helpless and broke down. While the soldier was leaving I asked him his name. He returned and pointed a gun at me. I said: "Sir, you have gun and I have a pen.You can go ahead and shoot me. I am not afraid." I don't know where I got the courage from, I thought this was it, I thought of my parents and how they would miss me. Tears streamed down my face as I faced the gun. Another soldier begun hitting my motorcycle. He was joined by another person whose face was covered with a handkerchief. He interrogated me and I explained that I had come here with the permission of General Kumar Lama at the army camp in Tamgas and acting DSP Sharda Prasad Chaudhari. "They assured full support for my work as a journalist," I told him. Instead, the soldier shouted at me for taking the names of his superior officers. "Nonsense, you don't know how to present yourself in front of the army," he said in English. He finally let me go. Villagers later offered me comfort and nursed my wounds. If journalists are treated so brutally, just imagine what ordinary citizens must go through. I am convinced that the army is bent on repressing journalists.