Three journalists working for national newspapers in the central Parbat region have received death threats from a local Maoist leader after they investigated Maoist abductions of schoolchildren.
Despite promises from Krishna Bahadur Mahara, leader of the Maoist Nepalese Communist Party, threats are still being made against journalists, said Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières).
"Actions speak louder than words when it comes to freedom of the press," said the international press freedom organisation in a statement sent to Maoist leaders Pushpan Kamal Dahal and Krishna Bahadur Mahara.
"We call on you to stop these kidnappings and threats against the press. Your party should allow Nepalese journalists to work freely and safely in the areas you control," it said.
A Maoist leader of the people’s government of Parbat district in Central Nepal, Kshetra Bahadur Regmi, alias Kisaan, telephoned a correspondent of the daily Spacetime on 6 October and threatened to kill three other journalists.
They were: Lal Prasad Sharma of Kantipur, Durga Prasad Sharma of Nepal Samacharpatra and Hari Narayan Gautam of Rajdhani all of whom had investigated and written articles about the abduction by rebels of seven adolescents from two schools in Parbat district.
A wave of forced recruitment in the area has meant that many families no longer send their children to school for fear the Maoists will kidnap them.
The journalists supposed that the rebels were enrolling the snatched children into their military wing. The dailies Kantipur, Nepal Samacharpatra and Rajdhani also carried appeals from the parents for their children to be released.
The Maoist leader accused the journalists of spreading "false information to make money". "They told us to burgle neighbouring houses rather than write articles against the Maoists," said Durga Prasad Sharma, who added that he took the death threat very seriously. "We are in danger of being executed," he said.
On 11 September 2004, Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara apologised for the murder of journalist Dekendra Raj Thapa and assured Nepal’s journalist community that it would not happen again.