31 July - 6 Aug 2015 #769

The crime of reporting

Sandeep Yogi in Setopati, 29 July

I was heading towards Bhat Bhateni from Baluwatar on Monday afternoon. A motorcade suddenly overtook my motorcycle, halting the traffic in front of the office of the CIAA (Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority).

Motorists started honking furiously, but traffic policemen cordoned off the road. It turned out to be that the CIAA chief Lok Man Singh Karki was coming in to work. I was taking a few photos of the traffic jam and Karki’s car with my mobile when a policeman snatched the phone from my hands.

A few minutes after Karki’s motorcade passed, everyone was allowed to move forward but not me. The police not only seized my bag, camera and mobile but also beat me up. They broke one of my teeth and the lens of my SLR camera. They informed the Kamal Pokhari police office about a suspect arrested with a bomb. Yes, they were talking about me!

When DSP Binod Silwal came from Kamal Pokhari, I told him that I was an Image Channel reporter. Silwal called the CIAA’s press officer, who asked Image Channel’s Chair RK Manandhar if he knew me. But Manandhar disowned me and denied any knowledge of me.

I called Federation of Nepalese Journalists (NFJ) President Mahendra Bista, who is News Editor at Image Channel. I also informed Press Union Chair Badri Sigdel. They told the CIAA to let me go, which it did. But I felt humiliated not only by their behaviour but also by Manandhar’s failure to protect me. When I wrote up the news, Image Channel spiked it.

On Tuesday, I went to work as usual. My colleague Anupa Shrestha, who is also the FNJ’s Image Channel chapter President, told me to not come to the office from Wednesday. I asked why, she just said: “It’s the management’s decision.”

I asked her to hand me my termination letter, but she said that was not possible. I lost my job just because I took a photo of a public figure in a public place.