Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) has protested after a group of soldiers forced a staff-member of a daily newspaper to open the paper’s offices where they conducted an unofficial search before arresting him and taking him back to barracks for interrogation.
The troops picked up Bharat Oli as he was distributing copies of the Kalpristha in Nepalgunj in the south of the country on the morning of 9 October.
A few days earlier a police officer made a death threat against a journalist on the daily Rajdhani, the international press freedom organisation said.
Reporters Without Borders called on Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to investigate the facts surrounding the search and detention. It also urged him to discipline police officers, particularly in the Jajarkot district, so as to end threats to the press.
Oli was arrested by eight soldiers in plain-clothes who, after searching his newspaper’s premises, took him to a barracks and interrogated him about his sources and the paper’s relationship with Maoist rebels.
Worried by his disappearance, Oli’s colleagues reported him missing to the security forces during the afternoon. The military spokesman initially denied all knowledge of what had happened to him before admitting in the evening that he had been arrested for questioning. Oli was released after 14 hours in detention. Another royal army official termed it an "ordinary security operation".
The newspaper’s editor, Hemanta Karmacharya, said the paper "prioritised independent information and never allowed itself to be dictated to either by the Maoists, or the army, or by anyone else. (...) They can’t be very happy with us", he said. Kalpristha has been known on several occasions to contest information supplied to it by the army about its clashes with rebels.
In a 2002 Investigation Report, Reporters Without Borders wrote: "Nepalgunj reporters said they were unable to verify most of the information received from the security forces and human rights organisations. "Our field access is very limited," the BBC’s stringer Sharad K. C. said. "The threats from the military make us fear for the worst if we go to investigate reports of abuses. We have ended up practising a large degree of self-censorship."
Elsewhere, in western Jajarkot district, a group of police officers beat and threatened Rajendra Karki, journalist for the daily Rajdhani, as he was returning from reporting on 7 October. One police officer, Krishna Bahadur Khatri, threatened to kill him if he "went on talking". Karki went to a police post to lay a complaint but the officers there refused to record it.
It was not known exactly what prompted the threats, but according to local journalists, police are particularly suspicious of journalists and human rights activists.