Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) said today it was pleased at the release of seven journalists and media assistants in Nepal but called for the release of more than 20 others still in prison.
Those freed included Ishwor Chandra Gyawali (editor), Manarishi Dhital (office worker) of the pro-Maoist monthly Dishabodh, Deepak Sapkota (reporter), Dipendra Rokaya (editorial assistant), Dhana Bahadur Thapa Magar (photographer), all of the pro-Maoist weekly Janadesh, and Mina Sharma, editor of the monthly Aikyabaddata (Solidarity). They were released on 5 November from Kathmandu central prison, where some had been for more than six months. Ram Bhakta Maharjan, a keyboard operator on the weekly Janadesh, was freed the previous day.
Their release came after a concerted campaign by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, which had persuaded the then prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to set up a joint commission to negotiate the release of imprisoned journalists and investigate press freedom violations.
Reporters Without Borders said the freeing of the seven was a sign of goodwill by the country’s new government, but regretted the authorities had waited so long to act when there was no evidence of the prisoners’ involvement in the Maoist guerrilla forces.
Some of the detainees were beaten and tortured during interrogation. Reporters Without Borders and international media took up Sharma’s case in recent months and hundreds of people had signed petitions calling for her release.
At least 21 other journalists and media assistants are thought to be still in jail in Nepal. None of them have been tried and the authorities have never observed the rules about the maximum length of detention without trial spelled out in the anti-terrorism law.