Reporters Without Borders condemns the murder of Jagat Prasad Joshi, also known as JP Joshi Pandit, a journalist with the local edition of the Maoist daily Janadisha in the district of Kailali (in the south of the western region of Seti), who had been missing since October 8 and whose remains were found in a nearby forest on 28 November.
"We urge the Nepalese authorities to carry out a full investigation into this murder with the aim of identifying and punishing those responsible," Reporters Without Borders said. "All hypotheses should be considered, especially as a relative has named a local Maoist leader as a possible suspect."
The press freedom organisation added: "This murder and the many other recent cases of violence against journalists show that, although the Nepalese media recovered their freedom after the fall of the king, they still have not recovered their physical security. The government should apply itself to ensuring respect for the rule of law and combating impunity throughout the country."
Joshi’s part of skull
After a 52-day search, Joshi’s skeleton was found on 28 November in Pragati Mahila forest, 500 metres from his home in Malakheti and less than a kilometre from the nearest police station. His press ID, his driver’s licence, a mobile phone and clothes were also found at the scene.
Joshi was president of the local chapter of the (pro-Maoist) Revolutionary Journalists Association and the newspaper he worked for, Janadisha, is one of the mouthpieces of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). He worked clandestinely as a journalist for 10 years before democracy was restored two years ago.
The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) sent representatives to Kailali to investigate the murder. According to a Reporters Without Borders representative who was there, some of Joshi’s relatives suspect a local businessman, Lokendra Rawat, and his brother, Karan Rawat, of being behind the murder. Joshi had been threatened by Lokendra Rawat after writing an article, with photos, implicating him in trafficking in tiger skins.
One of Joshi’s brothers also suggested that a local Maoist leader, Hari "Utsav" Chaudhari, could have been involved. Joshi was physically attacked one night as he was returning home after writing an article for Janadisha and the Dhangadhi Post Daily criticising Chaudhari’s calls for the independence of part of the Terai region. Local Maoist leaders dismissed the suggestion.
The Malakheti police have arrested three suspects including the Rawat brothers, who fled after the remains were discovered. The local police are currently awaiting the results of DNA analysis of the remains.
Members of the family say they have been pressured by certain Maoist officials and fear for their safety.
The FNJ has been organising demonstrations in Kathmandu and elsewhere since 30 November to press the authorities to do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for Joshi’s murder are punished. The Kailali media have called a general strike.
The discovery of Joshi’s body comes nearly a year after journalist Birendra Shah’s murder by Maoists in the south of the country. Another journalist, Prakash Singh Thakuri of the daily Aajako Samachar, has been missing since July 2007, when he was kidnapped by a group claiming to be Maoist.
Video of the demonstration in Kathmandu on 30 November in protest against Joshi’s murder, with an address by FNJ general secretary Poshan KC: