Arjun Presad Sah of Aajako Janapukaar Daily and Manohar Pokhrel of Aajako Batabaran Daily in the eastern district of Saptari were released on 24 April after a seven-hour meeting between local officials and representatives of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ). Sah had spent 83 days in prison. Pokhrel had been held for 65 days.
The FNJ obtained the release of Lavadev Dhungana in the eastern district of Pachthar on 21 April. Dhungana had spent 50 days in detention. Gopal Baraili, the correspondent of the governmental daily newspaper Gorkhapatra, was released in Dhankuta, also in the east, on 19 April after a month in prison while Satyaram Parajuli, the editor of the weekly Majdur Aawaj, was freed in Kathmandu after being held for 20 days.
Arrests, confiscations, threats - the crackdown continues
The crackdown on the Nepalese press that began when a state of emergency was declared on 1 February is continuing, Reporters Without Borders said today, citing new cases of arrests of journalists and censorship of news media.
"The reasons given by the Nepalese authorities to justify this crackdown on the news media are completely unacceptable," the organization said. "Press freedom poses absolutely no obstacle to internal peace and security. On the contrary, it is an essential element for a return to democracy."
Reporters Without Borders said it nonetheless saw a glimmer of hope in a new accord reached between the Nepalese government and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human rights allowing for monitoring offices to be set up in Nepal with the job of preventing the continuation of human rights violations.
In a single day (8 April) in the eastern town of Dharan, at least six journalists working for two local daily newspapers, the Blast Times and the Morning Post, were arrested while covering protests by various political parties. Those detained included Kesab Ghimire, Kishor Karki and Bimal Sakaya.
Although released at the end of the day, they were given strict orders not to write articles of a political nature or report on that day’s pro-democracy demonstrations, and they were warned of reprisals if they did not comply. The authorities went on to seize that day’s issues of the two newspapers and forced staff to hand over the keys to their offices.
There have been other, equally alarming cases testifying to the desperate plight of press freedom in Nepal. On 7 April, journalists were banned from covering a debate on the state of emergency and intellectual freedom organized by the teachers’ association at Padma Kanya College, a leading women’s university in Kathmandu.
Bheri FM news editor Kamalraj Regmi was meanwhile transferred on 10 April to a prison in the western district of Surkhet after being held in the custody of the security forces for 12 days under the state of emergency, also known as the Peace and Security Act.