International Media Mission Addresses Open Letter to Nepal Prime Minister


Media Release: Nepal

January 14, 2013


The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) and partner organisations in the International Media Mission

to Nepal, have addressed an open letter to the Prime Minister of Nepal, Dr

Baburam Bhattarai, urging that the law be allowed to take its course, unimpeded

by politics, in the case of the alleged murderers of journalist Dekendra Thapa.


Five political activists,

associated with Nepal’s Maoist party and a breakaway group, were arrested

between January 3 and 5 on charges of murdering Thapa, who was abducted from

his home in June 2004 and murdered on August 11, 2004.


The investigation was however,

ordered stopped by Nepal’s Prime Minister, on the grounds that a crime commited

during the war years should be dealt with through a Truth Commission, rather

than under ordinary criminal law.


The International Media Mission

to Nepal, in which the IFJ has been associated from the very beginning, has

been engaged with journalists and civil society groups in the country since

2006, seeking to strengthen the advocacy work for media freedom and the right

to free speech.


The full text of the letter


Dear Mr

Prime Minister,

We are writing to you as members of the

International Media Mission which has been engaged with journalists and civil

society groups in Nepal over the last six years, to express our concern over

your recent intervention in the case against the alleged murderers of

journalist Dekendra Thapa.

At our meeting with you in February 2012, we

discussed certain very serious challenges journalists face, identified in

consultation with our local partners in the country. Among the urgent

priorities mentioned was the need to address the prevailing climate of impunity

for attacks against journalists and others exercising their right to freedom of


At that time, we focused on a number of cases

of journalists who had been killed after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement

(CPA) of 2006 and identified specific areas where we had reason to believe that

investigation and prosecution had been inadequate. At the same time, the

problem of impunity has roots in a time from before the CPA and includes

journalists who were killed during the decade-long conflict which ended with

the informal ceasefire that followed the Jana Andolan of 2005.

As a result, we were greatly encouraged to

hear that police in Dailekh district in the far-western region of Nepal had

arrested five suspects between 3 and 5 January 2013 in connection with the

August 2004 murder of Dekendra Thapa. Unfortunately, this was short-lived since

we learnt soon afterwards of your personal instruction to the police to halt

the investigation, on the grounds that a murder which occurred during the

conflict should not be subject to ordinary criminal jurisdiction.

We recognise that there is a political

consensus in Nepal on the need for a Truth Commission to deal with abuses which

occurred during the conflict period. However, we note that there is still no

agreement, after all these years, on the constitution of such a body, or on its

mandate or the modalities it would follow.

According to the confessions made by the men

arrested in Dailekh, Thapa was abducted in June 2004 and tortured for over a

month before being killed. The outrage that followed his murder led a senior

Maoist functionary to issue a public apology and to disclaim any link between

the murder and party policy.

In this context, halting a process initiated

under prevailing criminal law would send all the wrong signals and deeply erode

the confidence of Nepal’s journalistic community. As our partner, the

Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), has repeatedly emphasised, the media

community is in need of positive assurances that their safety will not be

jeopardised. This is one among many steps needed to advance the transition to a

political order in which freedom of expression and a free press are basic

democratic entitlements. Nothing could be more calculated to undermine the confidence

of the media community in this regard than halting legal proceedings against

the alleged murderers of a journalist.

We are therefore of the view that a valuable

public purpose would be served by allowing the criminal prosecution in Thapa’s

murder to proceed and ask that you withdraw your instruction to halt the case.

We also ask that you give your personal attention to other cases of journalists

who have been killed, in particular those that our partner, the FNJ, has been

tracking actively.

Thank you for your attention to this

important matter.


Yours sincerely,


Jacqueline Park

Asia-Pacific Director

International Federation of Journalists


Toby Mendel

Executive Director

Centre for Law and Democracy


Barbara Trionfi

Press Freedom Manager

International Press Institute (IPI)


Oliver Spencer

Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer

Article 19


Elisabeth Witchel

Committee to Protect Journalists


Damian Loreti



Ashish Sen


AMARC Asia-Pacific


Jesper Hojberg

International Media Support



further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950



represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries



the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific



the IFJ on Facebook: