Reporters Without Borders today hailed the release yesterday of journalist Bhawana Prasain of the monthly Majdur Aawaj, who had been held since 9 February after taking part in a demonstration in Kathmandu in protest against King Gyanendra’s regime.
“The police held Prasain illegally and accused her of being a Maoist without any evidence,” the press freedom organisation said. “Now she is back at home, we hope she will recover some peace of mind after the physical and psychological torture she underwent in prison.”
Prasain’s detention was ruled illegal by supreme court judges Rajendra Kumar Bhandari and Tahir Ali Asmari in response to a petition by Majdur Aawaj editor Satyaram Parajuli requesting her immediate release.
Journalist held for 21 days, two others arrested in past two days
Reporters Without Borders protested at the treatment of female journalist Bhawana Prasain, of the monthly Majdur Aawaj, who has been detained since 9 February 2006 and said she was beaten by police trying to force her to confess to membership of the Maoist party.
Over the past two days, police also arrested Jaya Prakash Gupta and Amar Bahadur Sunar.
“Yet again, a journalist has been arrested and accused without any proof of being a Maoist. It is disgraceful to see the police implicated in these acts of torture to force confessions,” the press freedom organisation said.
“We call for Bhawana Prasain’s immediate release,” it added.
Prasain, 24, was arrested on 9 February 2006 during a demonstration in Kathmandu in opposition to the regime of King Gyanendra. During questioning, police officers in plain clothes threatened to kill her if she tried to call any other demonstrators.
Police said they had found leaflets in her bag put out by an extreme leftist organisation. She was taken successively to police stations at Singh Durbar and Hanumandhoka. Three days later she was transferred to the Kathmandu central prison.
Her employer, Satyaram Parajuli, editor of Majdur Aawaj, and her brother were the only two people allowed to visit her. She had a swollen face and was psychologically demoralised. Parajuli told Reporters Without Borders, “During our visits, she cries (...) She is under pressure, because the police want to get her to admit to terrorist activities.”
The Supreme Court on 2 March, ordered the government to justify Prasain’s detention, a day after Parajuli lodged a request for habeas corpus.
Reporters Without Borders also called for the immediate release of Jaya Prakash Gupta, editor of the daily Upatyaka Sandhyakalin and the weekly Disha Nirdesh, who was arrested on the morning of 3 March in his office in Kathmandu and questioned by police about the content of certain articles.
Amar Bahadur Sunar, correspondent in Dailekh in western Nepal for the government news agency RSS and the national daily Rajdhani, was arrested by police on 2 March. He was attending a course given by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and UNESCO. On the eve of his arrest, police in plain clothes searched his home without a warrant.
His harassment came after he was denounced to the police by journalists who support King Gyanendra. He was released after four hours.