Som Sharma and Umesh Gurung
Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the action of Maoist rebels in freeing Som Sharma of the Aankha Weekly newspaper on 9 July after holding him for 56 days in eastern Nepal. The organisation also praised the skill of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) in negotiating Sharma’s release in the course of eight days of talks. Sharma was kidnapped in May because of articles and photos about killings by the rebels.
The negotiations, held between an FNJ delegation led by Purna Basnet and local Maoist leaders, also resulted in the lifting of the house arrest imposed by the rebels on Umesh Gurung of Radio Nepal and the Sutradhar Weekly, who had not been allowed to leave his home in the village of Jamuna, 600 km east of Kathmandu, for more than a month.
Maoist rebels continue to kidnap journalists, despite promises
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the kidnapping of Bikram Giri, a correspondent of the Kantipur daily newspaper, while reporting for his newspaper on 3 June in the western district of Darchula, near the Indian border. When Giri reappeared today, exhausted, in the main town in Darchula, he confirmed suspicions that he had been abducted by Maoist rebels.
Giri was the second reporter to have been kidnapped in the past month in Nepal, which is one of the few countries in the world where journalists are regularly kidnapped. The Nepalese press has been the target of both a tough government crackdown and increased Maoist attacks since the start of the year.
Reporters Without Borders said it was very worried about the state of health of Som Sharma (photo) of the weekly Aankha, who has been held by the rebels in eastern Nepal since 13 May, and called on Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara to reiterate the order he gave to the various rebel groups to free captive journalists.
In a recent letter to his family from captivity, Sharma said he was in poor health and was just getting potatoes to eat. He also confirmed that he was being held in a house in an isolated village by Maoist rebels, who criticised him for publishing photographs and writing reports for his newspaper about killings they had committed.
Little is known about Kul Bahadur Malla, a correspondent of the newspaper Kamali Sandesh, who was abducted in June 2003. The Maoists claimed that he joined the ranks of the rebels, but this has not been independently confirmed.
Reporters Without Borders said it was also alarmed about Maoist threats to take reprisals against Upendra Pokharel, the Kathmandu Post’s correspondent in the eastern district of Panchthar, if he continues to write reports "contrary to their interests."