Media watchdog condemns arrest of Nepali journalist in UAE
A Nepali journalist living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been arrested by UAE police officers for posting social media posts criticizing the Nepalese embassy in Abu Dhabi, according to a media watchdog. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the arrest of journalist Umakanta Pandey and urged the Nepalese government to facilitate his immediate release.
Pandey, affiliated with Ujjyalo Radio Network, was arrested on February 15 on cybercrime charges following a statement he posted on Facebook while in Nepal in early January, in which he accused the Embassy of Nepal in the United Arab Emirates of wrongdoing regarding visas to visit the UAE. “The problem of the visit visa to the UAE will never be solved because the [Nepali] the embassy itself promotes and supports the visit visa,” Pandey said. It is reported that more than 5,000 Nepalese citizens travel to the UAE on visit visas every month, many of whom are suspected of carrying out illegal employment in the hope of being able to stay in the country. United Arab Emirates The journalist claimed that he had substantial evidence regarding the misdeeds of the Nepal Embassy.
According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), following his arrest, a court in Dubai sentenced Pandey to three months in prison and fined him 20,000 dirhams (approximately US$5,444). The JNF further disclosed that Pandey faces additional difficulties in hiring a lawyer to represent him in his trial, as Nepali lawyers in the UAE are unwilling to take his case for fear of persecution. The JNF met on March 3 with Nepalese Foreign Minister Dr. Narayan Khadka to ask him to facilitate Pandey’s release. Following this discussion, the Nepalese Embassy in Abu Dhabi also agreed to assist in Pandey’s case, although it had previously denied any involvement in the incident.
JNF General Secretary Roshan Puri said: “Complaining to the Nepalese Embassy about the status drafted while he was living in Nepal and arresting and imprisoning a Nepalese journalist by UAE police for cybercrime will against the universal recognition of freedom of expression and direct interference with freedom of expression. The JNF calls the attention of the Government of Nepal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nepalese Embassy in the United Arab Emirates to investigate the incident and take immediate action for the release of Pandey. The IFJ said: “No one should be arrested simply for their opinion. The IFJ urges the authorities to immediately drop the charges against Umakanta Pandey and calls on the Nepalese government to facilitate his release and take action on this gross violation of freedom of the media.” (ANI)
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