Journalists Warn of "Dangerous days for Democracy" as Nepal Arrests Top Editors

The arrest of the editor and two executives of Nepal's leading newspaper amid accusations of treason have sparked protests from journalists throughout the world. "These are dangerous days for democracy," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' organisation, after Yuvaraj Ghimire, editor of Kantipur, was taken into custody by police. Also arrested were managing director, Kailash Sirohiya, and Binod Gwyanli, director of the Kantipur publishing house.

The IFJ says the arrests are a vivid reminder of Nepal's authoritarian past. Police made the arrests after the newspaper had published an article by a Maoist rebel leader calling on the army to side with protesters opposed to King Gyanedra, who has taken the throne following the killing of his brother King Birendra and other Royal Family members last Friday. The newspaper had published similar articles in the past, but this was the first arrest of mainstream journalists since constitutional democracy was established in 1990.

The IFJ says that Nepal journalists have been put in the front line of the current internal crisis following the murder of the king and his family. "The anger on the streets is caused by the lies and deceit that has come from official sources of information since the killings," said Aidan White, "Journalists have a duty to tell the truth and to end the ignorance and uncertainty that has contributed to instability in Nepal."

The IFJ accused Nepal's leaders of responding to the tragic events of last week with a profound lack of candour "A climate of hysteria and conspiracy has been created following explanations that have bordered on the absurd. It is outrageous to target journalists when it is clear to everyone that what is urgently needed is honest, transparent and full disclosure on the part of the authorities," said Aidan White.

The IFJ says that it will fully support Nepal journalists in their efforts to tell the full story of the crisis. Next week the IFJ World Congress, meeting in Korea, will consider the situation and an application from the Nepal Press Union to join the Federation.