The mobilisation begun by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists culminated with a national demonstration on 9 August. In the streets of the capital, Kathmandu, more than 250 people, mostly journalists, demonstrated in silence. The demonstrators carried lanterns to denounce the government’s blindness in attacking the press. In Chitwan, south of Kathmandu, police questioned 22 journalists who demonstrated there. In Ithari, south-east of the capital, 16 journalists were arrested after the demonstration and a rally. In Birganj, also south of Kathmandu, security forces prevented journalists from demonstrating, and the lanterns prepared by the FNJ were confiscated. In Ilam, in the east of the country, the demonstration was also forbidden.
All the journalists arrested were released after being held for at least two hours.
The FNJ is planning to organise a human chain in the streets of Kathmandu, in the coming days, as well as a symbolic hunger strike.
"Reporters Without Borders fully supports the Nepalese journalists’ campaign in protest against the government’s policy of media repression. No anti-terrorist struggle can justify the increasing abuses committed against journalists and press freedom in Nepal since the state of emergency was declared on 26 November 2001," says Robert Ménard, the organisation’s Secretary-General.
Since the Nepalese government refused to acknowledge its appeals or the protests made by various human rights organisations, the Federation of Nepalese Journalists announced the launch of a two-week long protest campaign to start on 4 July 2002. It has sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, demanding an official inquiry into cases of journalists who have been killed or tortured in prison, the release of journalists still in custody and the lifting of all press censorship.
The document also calls on the government to shed light on the case of Krishna Sen, editor of the pro-Maoist newspaper Janadisha, who was arrested on 20 May 2002. The Nepalese weekly Jana Astha announced that he had died under torture, and this was confirmed by Reporters Without Borders. The authorities, having first maintained that Mr Sen was still alive, published a statement on 4 July to the effect that they were looking for him and that they would inform the press as soon as he was arrested. "This latest statement is as revolting as it is ridiculous," was Mr Ménard’s reaction.
Reporters Without Borders has also requested a meeting with the Nepalese Ambassador in Paris, Indra Bahadur Singh, with a view to obtaining some real answers concerning the situation of the imprisoned journalists and in particular about the fate of Mr Sen.