The 15 journalists who fled the western district of Dailekh last week because of threats from both the authorities and Maoist rebels decided yesterday to go back and resume working following reassuring statements by the government’s district representative, Meghanath Pandey, who gave a news conference in Nepalgunj where they had taken refuge. Reporters Without Borders expects long-term guarantees from the authorities and will continue to monitor what happens to journalists in Dailekh.
Harihar Singh Rathour freed after 36 hours
Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release of Harihar Singh Rathour, a well-known correspondent of the Kantipur press group and chairman of the local branch of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), who was arrested on 18 September in Dailekh in western Nepal.
He was set free after a delegation of journalists interceded with the authorities. It consisted of FNJ general secretary Mahendra Bista, FNJ member Poorna Basnet, Kantipur editor Narayan Wagle and Kathmandu Post editor Pradek Pradhan.
Arrest of renowned Kantipur journalist Harihar Singh Rathour
Reporters Without Borders has expressed anger at the arrest on 18 September 2005, of Harihar Singh Rathour, renowned journalist of the Kantipur press group and local chairman of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ).
Rathour was picked up and charged with working with Maoist rebels in the notorious Dailekh district in western Nepal from which around 15 other journalists have fled harassment by security forces and Maoists.
The international press freedom organisation called for Rathour’s immediate release and for a halt to harassment of correspondents in the region by civil and military authorities.
“Once again, the right of the Nepalese to be informed is the first casualty”, the organisation said.
On the eve of his arrest, Rathour and 15 other journalists wrote to the national president of the FNJ explaining that they felt forced to leave the Dailekh region, for fear of reprisals. They said it had become impossible to work normally. Almost a score of journalists had already left by 18 September.
Before his arrest, Rathour had denied accusations that he had been working with Maoists. He said that rebels had put his name in the “top ten” of journalists who were opposed to them.
Several observers said that the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) was trying to ensure that all journalists were driven out of the Dailekh district. Correspondents for national media are the first to have been threatened with arrest by the security forces.
During the summer, Rathour had been summoned by a military official after the Kathmandu Post carried an article of his on 20 July in which he said that soldiers were using children in neighbouring villages as spies.