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Nepal 9 March 2005

Two more journalists arrested, making eight in two weeks

Police on 8 March arrested Rishiram Pokhrel, editor of the local weekly Tanahu Aawaj, in Tanahu, western Nepal as he was covering a peaceful demonstration for a return to democracy. He is being held at the police station in Damauli.

Photographer Ashish Sarraf, better known as Nikki, was arrested in Janakpur, central Nepal while taking pictures of demonstrations against King Gyanendra. He is being held at Dhanusha police station.

Meanwhile, police in Kathmandu arrested Kamal Koirala, editor of the weekly Roadmap and a leader of the opposition communist party CPN-UML but his arrest did not appear to be linked to his work as editor.


At least six journalists arrested in two weeks

At least six journalists have been arrested during the past two weeks, despite a claim from government spokesman Tanka Dhakal that there were "no government controls on the media".

Reporters Without Borders said it was incensed by the statement from the minister, whose only legitimacy stemmed from a coup. The authorities should put an end to arbitrary arrests and perverse summonses, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

It added that censorship has been stepped up with a ban on the press from using any sources of information about the security situation other than the security forces.

Nepal is currently holding nine journalists in jail and at least six more have gone into hiding to escape arrest.

Dhakal, government spokesman and information and communications minister, speaking in Nepalgunj, in the southwest, denied that the government had imposed any media controls. "The press is free to write whatever it wants apart from anything that encourages terrorism" he said.

Three days later, Kanak Mani Dixit, prominent editor of the Nepalese language magazine Himal Khabarpatrika, was arrested and questioned for several hours in Kathmandu after plain clothes police officers arrested him at his home after his return from India where he had spoken at a press conference about Nepal’s political crisis.

Dixit, who also directs the press group Himal Media, publishers of the weekly Nepali Times, criticised the royal coup mounted by King Gyanendra on 1st February 2005.

Security forces on 3 March arrested Lavadev Dhungana, editor of the weekly Panchthar Times and correspondent for the daily Rajdhani in Panchthar district, far-eastern Nepal. He is apparently accused of publishing articles about pro-democracy demonstrations and a detention order was reportedly issued against him for disturbing the public order.

Narayan Shah of the weekly Drishti in Rukum, was detained for three hours by the army on 26 February. The reporter is also a local official with the Federation of Nepalese journalists (FNJ).

On 22 February, Arjun Prasad Shah, editor of the weekly Batabaran, and Monohar Pokhrel, who edits the weekly Jana Aakrosh, were arrested in Saptari district by the army. Both journalists are local FNJ officials.

Elsewhere, Swagat Nepal, a reporter on the daily Nepal Samacharpatra, was held for more than 14 hours by soldiers in Kathmandu on 21 February.

(JPEG) Surya Thapa (photo), editor of the opposition weekly Budhabar, was summoned and questioned on 4 and 7 March, by the head of the Kathmandu district administration, Baman Prasad Neupane, who demanded an explanation about an article headlined "Five parties united against authoritarianism". If found guilty of publishing banned news, he could face up to one year in prison, under the press law. The same official on 3 March questioned Indra Rijal and Suneel Sharma, owner and editor of the weekly Rashtriya Janamanch, about an article on Nepalese police actions.

Meanwhile Naryan Adhikari, correspondent for RSS, Kalifa FM and Communication Corner, and Basanta Parajuli, of Gorkhapatra and Synergy FM, were released on 1st March after being held for two weeks in Chitawan.

In this country
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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
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in the annual report
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