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Nepal 20 July 2004

Four journalists arrested for exposing a corrupt public official

Reporters Without Borders has protested after four journalists were arrested on the basis of a complaint by a public official, whom they had exposed for abuse of authority in the Rukum region, western Nepal.

The international press freedom organisation called for the immediate release of the four, arrested on 11 July, and for charges against them to be dropped. It said the arrests illustrated yet again the problems faced by journalists, particularly in the provinces, when they tried to probe corruption.

The four, all regional members of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNP), Hari Bishnu Oli of national daily Kantipur, Narayan Shah of the weekly Dristi, Dil Bhadur Shahi of official press agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti and Kamal Thapa of the weekly Budhabar, were arrested on the strength of a complaint against them by Dr Fekan Shah, head of the veterinary administration in Rukum.

His word alone was enough to have them detained, in harsh conditions, under the Public Offences Act.

Dr. Shah reacted after they questioned him about threats and insults he had made two days earlier against another group of journalists, who had questioned him about a false bills scandal.

The authorities had refused to open an investigation into Dr. Shah’s actions but agreed to let the official register a complaint.

Experts on the UN Human Rights Commission on 14 July repeated their deep concern about lack of freedom within Nepal. They expressed particular concern about the kingdom’s appalling prison conditions.

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