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.
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.
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
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
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries