12/23/2008, 00.00
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Maoists attack offices of Nepali Times

by Kalpit Parajuli
It is the third attack in three months against the publisher Himalmedia. In the latest edition of one of its magazines, it published a report on the labor unions. Protests of the opposition and of the press association. 70 industries have already suspended production because of protests by members of the All Nepal Trade Union Federation.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - On the afternoon of December 21, members of the Maoist labor unions attacked the offices of Himalmedia in the Nepalese capital, wounding two people and damaging some of the offices.

Twenty people belonging to various branches of the Maoist workers' association broke into the offices of the publisher of the English-language weekly Nepali Times and the biweekly Himal Khabarpatrika.

The latest issue of the magazine - the most widely read in the country - presented as its top story a report on the situation of anarchy created by Maoist union members among the workers in the sectors of media and business.

Kunda Dixit, director of the Nepali Times and a writer for Himal, who was present during the attack on the 21st, says that this was "a direct attack on press freedom. The Maoists want to control the media."

According to Dixit, the strategy of the unions is to intimidate the newspapers. For Himalmedia, it is the third attack in the past three months. After the attack, the director of the Nepali Times said: "They were encouraged to indulge in acts like today’s because no action was taken against them in the past, even though complaints were filed."

Salikram Jamkattel, a member of the constitutional assembly and the leader of the All Nepal Trade Union Federation, has accused Himalmedia of using its articles to drag the union's image through the mud, and has said that the publisher wanted to fire 16 employees, a charge denied by the journalists of the two publications.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists and the Nepal Press Union and Reporters’ Club have decried the attack, and have asked for sanctions against the perpetrators, some of whom were identified by the journalists attacked on the 21st.

After the incidents involving Himalmedia, all of the opposition parties have accused the government of wanting to muzzle the press. Prime minister Prachanda has rejected the accusations, and has asked for greater collaboration on the part of all of the political movements.

The Maoist labor unions are creating problems for the government in various sectors of the country's economy. More than 70 industries, including some multinational companies, have been forced to suspend their production after protests by the labor unions: some of them risk not reopening. The same thing has happened in the city of Nagarkot, 30 kilometers from the capital, where more than 400 commercial operations, including hotels and restaurants, have closed their doors because of the strike conducted by branches of the labor unions in the sector.

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