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Nepal 22 October 2004

Journalist released after 251 days of detention

The Nepalese army on 18 October released editor of the monthly Sagarmatha Times Jeetman Basnet from Bhairavnath barracks in Katmandu, where it had been holding him. He had been arrested on 4 February 2004 for alleged sympathies with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

The army had in an 11 March letter to the Supreme Court denied knowing anything about Basnet’s whereabouts. The interior and defence ministries had also officially confirmed this. However a special commission responsible for investigating cases of missing persons had said the journalist was indeed imprisoned by the army on the orders of the government.

Basnet, who is also a lawyer, has told the daily Rajdhani that he was ill-treated while in detention. He also said that the army was still holding Bhai Kaji Ghimire, of the monthly Samadistri, who had been thought to be at liberty.


Journalists kidnapped and harassed, newspaper offices attacked in wave of violence against the media

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) expressed concern today about rising violence against journalists and media in Nepal and said it feared it would prevent free and proper reporting of events there.

It declared support for efforts by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) to obtain the release of three journalists held by the authorities and two others kidnapped by Maoist rebels and repeated its call to the rebels to guarantee press freedom in the regions they control.

Demonstrators assaulted journalists and attacked the offices of several media in Kathmandu on 1st September. Reporters Without Borders called on home minister Purna Bahadur Khadka to explain why police had not protected media offices and journalists during the Kathmandu protests.

It renewed its call for the government to release Raju Kshetri and Maheshwar Pahari, of the weekly Rashtriya Swabhiman, and Jeetman Basnet, of the monthly Sagarmatha Times, who are being held in poor conditions. The supreme court has already ordered the release of Pahari and Basnet.

The press freedom organisation has regularly deplored attacks on journalists and obstruction of their work by the rebels and the security forces in recent years. It has put both rebel leader Pushpan Kamal Dahal ("Comrade Prachanda") and Nepalese King Gyanendra on its worldwide list of "predators of press freedom."

The Maoist rebels, heavily criticised after the 11 August execution of Radio Nepal reporter Dekendra Raj Thapa, continue to intimidate and threaten journalists in the districts. Bijay Mishra, a reporter for the daily Kantipur in the eastern district of Siraha, received a death threat on 2 September from a rebel cadre known as "Bibek", who promised him "the same fate as Dekendra Raj Thapa." The Maoists accused him of failing to report their activities in his newspaper.

Baikuntha Dahal, a freelance journalist in the eastern district of Udaypur, has been receiving death threats from the Maoists for several weeks, especially in their clandestine radio broadcasts, because of his alleged support for the armed forces. Anup Gurung, of the local weekly Purva Mechi, was arrested on 29 August in the eastern district of Ilam when rebels forced him to join the "people’s divisions" as punishment for not reporting favourably on their activities in the region. He was made to serve as a porter but managed to escape.

Journalist Durga Thapa was held for more than two weeks in August in eastern Nepal. The rebels are thought to have seriously violated press freedom at least a dozen times this year, through murders, kidnappings and death threats.

The violent demonstrations that erupted in Kathmandu on 1 September after the execution of 12 Nepalese hostages in Iraq the previous day affected the media when protestors set fire to the offices of the privately-owned media groups Kantipur and Space Time.

At least five Kantipur employees were hit by the demonstrators. Despite media appeals, police did not intervene. A dozen journalists, including Minal Pandey, of the Nepal 1 TV station, and Kiran Pandey, of the fortnightly magazine Himal Khabarpatrika, were attacked while reporting on the disturbances.

Badri Khadka, said to be the correspondent of the banned pro-Maoist weekly Janadesh in the eastern districts of Mechi and Koshi, was reportedly killed by security forces on 29 August in Govindapur (Morang district) after being arrested and tortured. Local journalists said his body had been mutilated. The security forces have not confirmed his death, which was announced by the rebels.

Reporters Without Borders cannot confirm that Khadka, 27, worked for Janadesh, which has only been available online since it ceased appearing in printed form in August 2003. The press freedom organisation considers that the total support of the staff of Janadesh for the armed rebellion of the Nepalese Communist Party is a serious violation of journalistic ethics. It condemns the paper’s calls for violence

In this country
30 April - Nepal
Radio station threatened by Maoists
8 February - Nepal
Nepalese media in great danger, International Press Freedom Mission finds
14 January - Nepal
Four arrested for woman journalist’s murder, while clandestine group claims responsibility
12 January - Nepal
Journalist and women’s rights activist brutally murdered
23 December - Nepal
Militant maoists continue their attacks against the media

in the annual report
Nepal - Annual report 2008
Nepal - Annual report 2007
Nepal - Annual report 2006

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