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Nepal 28 October 2003

Government urged to stop arrests, murders and kidnappings of journalists

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) called on the Nepalese government today to put a stop to a wave of deadly violence that has targeted journalists since the country’s pro-Maoist Communist Party rebels ended a ceasefire on 27 August.

"We are very worried about the increasing attacks on media workers by both government and rebel forces which threaten the free flow of news," said the press freedom organisation’s secretary-general, Robert Ménard, in a letter to prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa.

"Journalists are protected in wartime by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which considers them civilians, and the arbitrary arrest, killing and kidnapping of them are serious violations of international humanitarian law," he said.

Binod Sajana Chaudhary, of the weekly Nepalgunj Express in the western district of Kailali and formerly with the weekly Janadesh, was killed on 27 September. The daily Nepal Samacharpatra quoted rebels as saying plainclothes government agents killed him after he showed them his journalist’s card while on his way to the town of Kegaun on a reporting assignment. Local security officials claimed he died in an armed clash but the rebels said he had no weapon on him.

Nine journalists are currently detained or missing. They include:

Purna Biram, a poet and journalist with the monthlies Mulyankan and Dishabodh and formerly with the Maoist weekly Janadesh, was arrested in Kathmandu on 29 August by security forces as he was reading poems at a demonstration. Security police deny they arrested him.

Prem Nath Joshi, of the weekly Jana Dristi and Shangrila Voice, was arrested on 13 September.

Madhav Pokhrel, who writes for the weekly paper Hank, was arrested on 2 October in his Kathmandu bookshop on suspicion of having links with the leftist Janamorcha Nepal party.

Sunbindra Budhamagar, publisher of the monthly Nishal, was arrested on 11 October, after the magazine printed an article headed "Two reigns, two armies," which displeased the authorities. The magazine’s printing plant was ransacked.

Hari Regmi, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested on 16 October in his photography studio in the Balaju neighbourhood of Kathmandu by three members of the security forces.

Raju Chhetri, managing editor of the weekly Rastriya Swaviman, was arrested on 18 October in the village of Pumdibhumdi, near Pokhara. He is regarded as a Maoist sympathiser and went into hiding in July after the third round of government-rebel negotiations collapsed. He had been arrested once earlier.

Baikuntha Bhandari, deputy editor of the monthly Nepal Today, was kidnapped by a group of strangers from his home in the Dhumbahari neighbourhood of Kathmandu. The same day, Keshab Ghimire, editor of Blast Daily, was injured by thugs who attacked him in the eastern town of Dharan.

Similarly, Yogesh Rawal, reporter of Rajdhani daily, was arrested by the Armed Police Forces (APF) in Tikapur, western Nepal on October 24.

Many other journalists have been arrested and then freed after varying periods of detention, during which some were interrogated and beaten by government security forces.

Between late August and October, a dozen journalists have been detained. They include Bal Kumar Khadka, of the weekly Khulla Pratispardha, Nilkantha Tiwari, Ram Hari Chaulagain, of the weekly Sanghu, Subhashankar Kandel, editor of the weekly Jana Dharana who also works at Image Metro Channel, a new privately-owned TV station in Kathmandu, Pushkal Dhakal, of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), Sitaram Baral, deputy editor of the weekly Janaastha, Nawaraj Pahadi, former FNJ president in the western district of Lamjung and contributor to the national daily Rajdhani, Chandrakantal Paudel, of Samadhan Daily, poet and freelance journalist Navin Vivas (also known as Kiran Usa Pun) and Roshan Karki, correspondent of the daily Spacetime in the Sindhupalchowk district, northeast of Kathmandu.

After rebels murdered Gyanendra Khadka, of the government news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti, on 7 September, Reporters Without Borders appealed to the Nepalese Communist Party to stop the rebels targeting journalists and obstructing press freedom.

Since the ceasefire ended, 42 journalists have been jailed, two have been prosecuted, three have disappeared and five have been tortured by the security forces, according to the FNJ.

In this country
30 April - Nepal
Radio station threatened by Maoists
8 February - Nepal
Nepalese media in great danger, International Press Freedom Mission finds
14 January - Nepal
Four arrested for woman journalist’s murder, while clandestine group claims responsibility
12 January - Nepal
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23 December - Nepal
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in the annual report
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