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Nepal 23 February 2006

Five journalists freed, two still in prison

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release from prison of five journalists over the past two weeks and called for two others to be immediately freed as well.

Bheem Rai, of the weekly Aujarr, JB Ghale Magar, deputy chairman of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) in the eastern district of Thankuta, and the correspondent of the daily Udghosh, Teekaram Ghimire, were freed on 9 February. Sudarshan Aacharya, of the weekly White Paper, and Bhaktadhwaj Bohara, an FNJ leader, were released on 14 February.

However, Shyam Shrestha, editor of the opposition monthly Mulyankan, is still being held at the second battalion police barracks in Maharajgunj, in temporary custody for three months under the security laws. Tej Narayan Sapkota, of the weekly Yojana, has been detained since November 2003 and he is being prosecuted.

More journalists were arrested in Nepal last year than in any other country in the world.


Seven journalists still being held in prison

As scores of political activists and journalists have just been released across the kingdom, Reporters Without Borders has urged the Nepalese government to free seven journalists who are still being held.

At least 114 journalists were arrested while doing their jobs or taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations from 20 January 2006. Nepal, has since 2004, arrested more journalists than any other country worldwide.

"For the past few years, the Nepalese government has had the distressing tendency to jail journalists in massive numbers. To the knowledge of Reporters Without Borders, the authorities have never succeeded in proving their guilt. The seven journalists should be freed immediately.

"Whether they were arrested for their articles or for demonstrating for press freedom, their detention is abusive," said the press freedom organisation.

Bheem Rai, of the weekly Aujaar, was arrested on 7 February in Dharan, eastern Nepal. During his arrest, his colleague, Gopal Dewan was beaten by security forces. On the same day, JB Ghale Magar, local deputy chairman of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), and Teekaram Ghimire, of the daily Udghosh, were arrested in Dhankuta district in the east.

Sudarshan Aacharya, of the weekly White Paper, and Bhaktadhwaj Bohara, an FNJ leader, were arrested by Kathmandu police on 24 January. Shyam Shrestha, of the opposition monthly Mulyankan, has been detained in the capital since 19 January. Finally, Tej Narayan Sapkota, of the weekly Yojana, has been imprisoned since November 2003.

Elsewhere, Reporters Without Borders has recorded new cases of the security forces carrying out assaults on journalists. On 13 February, Rabindra Shahi, journalist on the Dristi Weekly, and an activist colleague with the human rights organisation INSEC, were beaten up by members of the military in Manma, Kalikot district in western Nepal. A police officer beat Suresh Koirala, correspondent for the daily Saptahik Janasatta in Bharatpur, central Nepal on 8 February.

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