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Nepal 26 August 2005

Six journalists face arrest over cartoon about monarchy

Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediately withdrawal of the arrests warrants issued for a cartoonist and five newspaper executives over a allegedly "subversive" cartoon portraying the constitutional monarchy as a dead animal, which appeared on 21 August in the national daily Kantipur and its English-language sister daily, the Kathmandu Post.

"By targeting Kantipur’s executives, the Nepalese authorities are trying to get control of the opposition media," the press freedom organisation said. "The information and communication ministry is doing everything possible to close down these two newspapers."

The arrest warrants were issued for Hemraj Gyawali (Kantipur’s director), Kailash Sirohiya (its managing editor), Narayan Wagle (its editor), Prateek Pradhan (the Kathmandu Post’s editor), Binod Raj Gyawali (the owner and director of the company that publishes both newspapers) and the cartoonist, who is known only as Batsyana.

Wagle and Pradhan were questioned by two information and communication ministry officials about the cartoon on 22 August. The minister, Tank Dhakal, confirmed that the executives were to be prosecuted. The six arrest warrants were sent to the Royal Nepal Army for execution, but no arrests have yet been made.

The issuing of the warrants comes less than three weeks after the government threatened to close down radio Nepal FM 91.8 on 4 August. However, on 10 August, the supreme court ordered the information and communication ministry to drop all legal proceedings against the station.


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