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Nepal 25 February 2003

Journalist receives death threat from Maoists

Maoists have threatened to kill journalist Rabin Thapalia for having written an editorial in a newspaper published in the Nuwakot district (north-west of Kathmandu) on the victims of atrocities committed by the rebels.

Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) condemns the growing number of threats and assaults that are being made against journalists by members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The organisation urges political and military leaders of the Maoist movement not to violate the safety of journalists-particularly Rabin Thapalia. Reporters without Borders recalls that radio news reporter Dhana Bahadur Rokka Magar has been held captive by the Maoists since August 2002 in the Surket region (in western Nepal).

On 10 January 2003, journalist Rabin Thapalia, a contributor to the Ruprekha, a local daily newspaper in Bidur (in the Nuwakot district), received a letter from a Maoist commander threatening him with reprisals for having written an editorial on the status of the widows and orphans of victims of the war between the Maoists and Nepalese security forces. The journalist was accused of having "defamed the Maoist movement." On 30 January, Rabin Thapalia received a second letter in which he was threatened with death for failing to apologise to the rebels. The Maoists contend that he will be "cut into pieces" wherever he may be, if he does not apologise within 15 days. A short time later, the journalist published his apologies in the Ruprekha but he is still being threatened.

Rabin Thapalia fled to Kathmandu, where he alerted the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ). The latter has attempted to get a message to the Maoists asking them to put a stop to this harassment but the rebels have not yet responded. On 24 February, Rabin Thapalia announced at a press conference in Kathmandu that his family is still in danger and that, despite the cease-fire, the Maoists are still targeting civilians.

In addition, the Nepal Samacharpatra daily has revealed that Deepak Bahadur Thapa, its correspondent in Mangelsen (in the Achham district of western Nepal), is still being forcibly detained in his village by the Maoists. This journalist, who is also the managing editor of the local Sandesh weekly, has been prevented from leaving his village since November 2002. The rebels are also said to have forced him to take part in their operations.

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