Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the death of imprisoned journalist Maheshwor Pahari from tuberculosis last night after the authorities repeatedly refused to treat him. He was aged just 30.
“The government has a clear responsibility in this young journalist’s death,” the press freedom organisation said. “Held secretly for months, tortured and then put in an extremely overcrowded cell, Pahari is the latest victim of the security forces’ criminal policy towards anyone suspected of sympathising with the Maoist rebels.”
Reporters Without Borders continued: “We call on Ian Martin, the representative of the UN high commissioner for human rights in Nepal, to launch an investigation into Pahari’s death to determine where the responsibility lies.”
After this tragedy, the government should immediately release the other three journalists still imprisoned in Nepal, Tej Narayan Sapkota, Rupak Sapkota and Nagendra Upadhyay, the organisation added.
Pahari died just one week after being transferred from the main prison in the western city of Pokhara to the regional hospital located in the same city. Although doctors had been recommending his transfer to Kathmandu for treatment, the prison authorities had again just refused to do this. Until the end, the police refused to let his friends and fellow journalists see him. Only his wife was able to talk to him for a few minutes in the hospital.
Pahari had been ill for several months but the prison guards refused to provide him with the necessary medicines or improve his conditions of detention. He was held with about 100 other detainees in a cell designed for 20 prisoners.
According to statements obtained by Reporters Without Borders from several sources, Pahari was in good health at the time of his arrest.
His wife and mother of his two children, Durga Pahari, said: “The doctors recommended his transfer to a better hospital but because of the ignorance of the guards and prison management, he died.”
Pahari worked for the local weekly Rastriya Swabhiman, which stopped publishing after the Maoist rebels broke off the cease-fire in August 2003. The security forces had hounded him for years because, although they had no proof, they suspected him of links with the rebels.
He was arrested on 2 January 2004 and was secretly held at Phulbari barracks near Pokhara under the anti-terrorism law. As he left Kaski prison near Pokhara on 13 May 2005 on completion of a six-month sentence, he was re-arrested and taken to Ward police station in Bagar, a northern district of Pokhara.