IFJ Calls for Leniency for Journalist Jailed in Bhutan

 

 

The

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is worried at the Bhutan High

Court’s sentencing of journalist Shanti Ram Acharya to a prison term of

seven-and-a-half years on terrorism charges.

 

According

to the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA), an organisation active

among Bhutanese exiles in Nepal, Acharya

is accused of “involvement

in subversive activities" against Bhutan and alleged

links to a Maoist group.

 

However, APFA is concerned that Acharyamay have fallen victim to a draconian law which criminalises the return

of exiles to Bhutan.

 

Acharya,

20, lived in refugee camps in Nepal

since he and his immediate family were exiled from Bhutan in 1991 as part of a mass

transfer of ethnic Nepalis. He worked for the Bhutan Reporter and Bhutan

Jagaran, newspapers published by Bhutanese exiles in Nepal.

 

Acharya was reportedly active in non-violent political activity and

participated in a two-week long program of protests in Kathmandu,

Nepal, just before leaving

for Bhutan. APFA reports

he was arrested in January 2007 while visiting relatives in Bhutan.

 

Acharya’s conviction is reportedly based on statements he

allegedly made to police while in custody between January 16 and March 16 last

year. These statements were reportedly recounted by him in open court, although

press freedom groups are unconvinced that the judicial proceedings were either

fair or fully comprehensible to the accused, who is an ethnic Nepali.

 

“The IFJ urges

Bhutan’s

authorities to take a humanitarian view of the case of Acharya and review the

harsh sentence imposed on him,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

The IFJ joins APFA and other

press freedom groups in calling on Bhutan authorities to make public

Acharya’s whereabouts and the conditions in which he is being held, and in

urging a review in which Acharya is provided with access to an independent

lawyer.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The

IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries