On May 6, Bhim Sapkota, sub-editor of Narayani Khabar Patrika daily , was arrested at home by the security forces in Chitwan (south west of Kathmandu). No reason was given for his arrest.
Police raid premises of two weekly papers, a journalist arrested
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) has written to the Nepalese Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to protest about the arrest of journalist Youbraj Pandey, who works for the daily Naya Disha, and the police raid on the premises of two weekly papers in Kathmandu. "We can only condemn this arrest, which once again confirms Nepal’s unfortunate record as the world’s largest prison for journalists", says Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of RSF. The organisation demands an explanation for the arrest of Youbraj Pandey. "If this journalist has been arrested because of the articles he has written, it is the government’s duty to release him immediately", says Mr Ménard in his letter. Given that the authorities have not produced any evidence to prove their membership of the Maoist Party, RSF has asked the Prime Minister to do his utmost to secure the release of the 29 journalists and media workers currently in prison in Nepal. RSF has also asked that the reasons for the police raid on the premises of two weekly papers Nawa Yougabni and Nepali Awaj be made public.
According to RSF’s information, plain-clothes police burst into the Shrinkala print shop, which houses the two weeklies Nawa Yougabni and Nepali Awaj, in Thapagaon, Kathmandu, on 29 April 2002. They arrested two journalists and six of their colleagues, and confiscated news clippings and a negative of the wife of the Maoist leader, Prachanda. The two journalists, Kedar Bhattarai and Prakash Thapa, together with Sita Adhikari, computer operator on the Nepali Awaj, Balram Dhamala, proofreader, Prahlad Basnet, assistant, Rajkumar Karki, cameraman and Bel Bahadur Ale, employee, were released after being questioned for three hours. Following the intervention of Tej Prakash Pandit, editor of the Nawa Yougbani and Chairman of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), police apologised for the arrests. The security forces apparently declared that they were obeying orders "from above" and that they knew no more. Tej Prakash Pandit maintains however that the police raid could have been ordered by the Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was irritated by the publication of articles criticising his government and his management of the state of emergency.
In addition to this, Youbraj Pandey, correspondent for the daily Naya Disha and member of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), was arrested on 27 April 2002 in his office in Butwal, Rupendehi District (South-West of Kathmandu). No explanation has been given for his arrest, which brings the total number of journalists and media workers in prison in Nepal to thirty.
Reporters Without Borders published its fact-finding mission’s report on the Consequences of the State of Emergency and of the Fight Against "Maoist Terrorism" Attacks on Freedom of the Press, on 16 April 2002. You can read the report on the RSF web site at www.rsf.org.