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Nepal 7 August 2002

Reporters Without Borders urges Nepalese premier to halt arrests of journalists


Journalist Kishor Shrestha has said that his arrest on charges of libel was just a pretext and that, while being interrogated, a police officer threatened him with reprisals if he continued to write about the death in detention of Krishna Sen, editor of the pro-Maoist publication Janadesh. It was Shrestha’s publication Jana Aastha which, citing unidentified confidential sources, first reported that Krisha Sen had died while under torture by the country’s security forces. The authorities continue to deny his death. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a commission of enquiry sent a report on the case to the Minister of Interior at the end of July, but its findings have not yet been published.

Kishor Shrestha, managing editor of the Nepalese weekly Jana Aastha and Bishnu Gimire, managing editor of the daily Janapraha were arrested on 4 August and freed the next day by police in Katmandu.

Shrestha was accused of publishing "defamatory news" while Ghimire was accused of using his newspaper for blackmail.

"Once again the authorities are misusing powers under the state of emergency to mount a witch-hunt against journalists. These latest arrests have but one aim, which is to intimidate a critical press", said Robert Ménard, General Secretary of Reporters Without Borders, in a letter to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. The organisation urged him to bring a halt to arrests of journalists and to immediately free those imprisoned in connection with their work.

Reporters Without Borders pointed out that more journalists are in prison in Nepal than in any other country in the world.

According to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, Kishor Shrestha, managing editor of the extreme left-wing weekly Jana Aastha (The People’s faith) was arrested by police on 4 August 2002 at his office in Katmandu and then taken to a police post at Hanumandhoka. After announcing that he could be charged with "defamation" the police released him after 24 hours in detention.

His newspaper had published an article accusing a senior police detective, Ram Chandra Khanal, of corruption. The newspaper also carried news of the death in detention of journalist Krishna Sen. Managing editor of the daily Janapraha Bishnu Ghimire was arrested on an accusation of extortion against the owner of a restaurant. He was also released on 5 August.

The release of the two editors followed pressure from journalist organisations, including the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, which on 4 July began a campaign against press freedom violations. On 2 August most Nepalese newspapers published a blank page in the place of their usual editorial pages to protest at the harassment of the press and to demand the setting up of a government commission to investigate cases of mal-treatment of journalists.

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