IFJ Condemns Communist Rebels Over Attacks on Reporters as Nepal Crisis Deepens

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists group, today condemned the treatment of journalists by the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-Maoist) fighters and called on them to end all violent attacks on journalists.

"No cause is served by abuse of human rights," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "and use of violence and torture to intimidate journalists is particularly abhorrent."

On 8 November, Maoist fighters severely beat up Rekhraj Dahal, a reporter for the daily Prateek, published in Birgunj, at Hatpate, in Sindhuli district. Dahal was released by the rebels after being severely tortured for eight hours. Dahal had travelled to the region to observe the Tihar festival (festival of light).

At the same time, the IFJ has called on the authorities to exercise restraint after reports of actions by the security forces against journalists in different parts of the country. "It is unacceptable to have both sides of a conflict putting pressure on journalists," said White, "Everyone must respect the principles of media freedom and freedom of expression.

Royal Nepalese Army personnel detained Harihar Singh Rathor, a reporter for the daily Kantipur, at his residence in Dailekh during the weekend of 9 to 10 November. The reporter was released after nearly 11 hours. Security sources said that they had taken Rathor into custody to ask him about an explosion near his residence. Moreover, on 13 November, security personnel arrested Dinesh Chaudhari, a Jajarkot-based reporter associated with Space Time Dainik, on charges of sedition.

At least two of these journalists participated in an IFJ safety training course, which took place in Katmandu in September this year.

Sarah de Jong, IFJ Human Rights and Safety Officer, who helped organise the event said that safety of journalists was paramount. "It is particularly important right now as the parties are getting closer to peace talks, that journalists are able to do their job safely," she said.

The IFJ protested earlier this week following the arrest of Tikaram Rai, editor and publisher of Aparanha, under the Public Offence Act. The editor was arrested at his office and taken to the District Police Office at Hanuman Dhoka, Kathmandu. Rai was released on the afternoon of 14 November on Rs 500 (approx. US$6.39) bail, but the case is still pending. Rai said that he would file a petition against the government's decision to prosecute him under the Public Offence Act. He was arrested for publishing news items in the 11 and 12 November issues of his newspaper, which suggested that a Senior Police Superintendent was engaged in corruption. The officer filed a legal complaint saying that the news report amounts to character assassination.

Following the imposition of a state of emergency in Nepal on 26 November 2001, more than 150 journalists have been arrested in different parts of the country. The state of emergency was lifted on 28 August, but more than two dozen journalists remain in detention. Some journalists have reportedly been tortured, both physically and psychologically. Several detainees' whereabouts are unknown. There have been no reports of official charges filed against any of the detained journalists. The IFJ has investigated the cases of two journalists that have been killed this year.