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Nepal 6 March 2002

Journalist arrested

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested to the Nepalese government today about the arrest of Gopal Budhatoki, editor of the weekly newspaper Sanghu, and said it was concerned about prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s remarks that the press must support the army and the police in the fight against terrorism. In a letter to the prime minister, RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard called for the editor’s immediate release and said his arrest, "in very dubious circumstances," was "yet another example of the impunity the security forces enjoy under the state of emergency." image 69 x 102 (JPEG)

Budhatoki was kidnapped by four people on the evening of 3 March as he was returning home on his motor-bike. Three days later, the prime minister said he had been arrested because he repeatedly published "invented" articles about the security services with the sole aim of spreading rumours. Devendra Gautam, a member of a local journalists’ organisation, said the articles reported financial irregularities in the purchase of helicopters by the army. The prime minister charged that publishing such material was "the same as cooperating with the terrorists." Budhatoki had been arrested by the security forces on 17 December last year, interrogated and then freed a day later. Sanghu had printed extracts from a press release by the leader of the Maoist rebels, who are accused of "terrorism."

RSF also pointed out to the prime minister that more than 20 journalists were still being detained under the state of emergency and called on him to see that habeas corpus suits brought by lawyers and the journalists’ families were heard with the strictest regard for the law.

Since the state of emergency was declared by the king on 26 November last year, all basic rights, especially freedom of expression and opinion and the right to information, have been suspended. Under the provisions of the emergency, anyone even indirectly supporting the Maoist rebels can be prosecuted. The army also has the right to see all articles about the battle against the guerrillas before publication.




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