The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed the release of journalist Harihar Singh Rathour, but is deeply concerned for the safety of journalists in the Dailekh district.
On September 21, journalist Harihar Singh Rathour was released from police custody in Dailekh District after being held for three days.
Singh’s arrest came in the midst of a mass exodus of journalist’s from the Dailekh district in western Nepal.
“The IFJ welcomes the release of Harihar Singh Rathour, and calls on authorities to respect the rights of journalists who have decided to leave Dailekh district,” said the IFJ President Christopher Warren.
A mission led by Mahendra Bista, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, negotiated Rathour’s release after police barred any contact with friends or family during the three day arrest.
The Kantipur Daily journalist was first harassed, detained and then arrested without a warrant on September 19, for his alleged ties with the Maoist forces. Before his arrest, Rathour denied accusations that he was working with Maoists.
Rathour was harassed by RNA personnel earlier in the year when a military official summoned the journalist after he published an article stating that soldiers were using children in neighbouring villages as spies.
Exodus of journalists from Dailekh
Journalists in Dailekh have fled the district fearing for their safety as government security forces step up their campaign of intimidation against journalists in the region.
According to IFJ sources, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) is trying to ensure that all journalists, particularly national correspondents, are driven out of the Dailekh district.
“Authorities in Dailekh district have given journalists every reason to be afraid after the absolute mistreatment of Mr Rathour before and during his arrest,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.
“The safety and rights of journalists are being actively compromised and threatened by the disgraceful actions of the Nepalese security forces in Dailekh,” said the IFJ President.
“The government must not allow its forces to abuse their power to the detriment of innocent journalists. Nepalese authorities must also abide by the law,” said Warren.
On September 18, a number of journalists decided to leave Dailekh in western Nepal after an emergency meeting about growing insecurity caused by government security forces.
According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), a number of journalists fled to the neighbouring towns of Nepalgunj and Surkhet and have plans to go to Kathmandu.
The exact number of journalists who have left the district is unknown; so far there have been reports of between 12 and 17.
This is the first time journalists have left an area en masse in Nepal.
Government official attacks Constitutional rights
Meanwhile, government vice-chairman Dr Tulsi Giri has launched a shocking attack on press freedom in Nepal.
According to IFJ sources, Dr Giri said the constitution of Nepal was a barrier to the prosecution of media that is critical of the king’s autocratic rule and had prevented the government from taking action against the Kantipur Dainik newspaper.
“Dr Giri has made it abundantly clear that journalists and the independent press have been victimised by aggressive targeted campaigns led by the government,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.
“The apparent intention of the government to stamp out independent media publications and curtail free speech is a shocking admission of its unofficial policy to eliminate this cornerstone of democracy in Nepal,” said the IFJ President.
For more information about the Nepal crisis visit http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/nepalcrisis.html
For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 (0) 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries