June 12, 2001
His Excellency Girija Prasad Koirala
Prime Minister, Kingdom of Nepal
Office of the Prime Minister
Via Facsimile: 977-1-227-286
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is very concerned about the continued detention of three leading Nepalese journalists. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.
The three journalists are Yubaraj Ghimere, editor of the Nepali-language daily Kantipur, Kailash Shirohiya, managing director of Kantipur and its English-language sister publication The Kathmandu Post, and Binod Raj Gyawali, director of both publications.
All three journalists were arrested on June 6, in the aftermath of the apparent murder of King Birendra and other members of the royal family. On Tuesday, June 11, the prisoners appeared in court for the first time since their arrest.
So far, the government has failed to bring formal charges against the three men. Upon their arrest, they were told that they were being charged with treason because of an article written by a Maoist rebel leader that was published in Kantipur on June 6. The article called on Nepalese citizens to reject the newly crowned King Gyanendra as a “puppet of Indian expansionist forces.”
If convicted of treason, they could face at least three years in prison.
In today’s court session, the judge ordered government prosecutors to file formal charges by Friday, June 15, and ruled that the suspects could remain in detention until that date. The court rejected a government petition to detain the men for another 25 days while the investigation proceeds.
CPJ is especially concerned that Ghimere, Shirohiya and Gyawali have been denied access to the telephone since last Friday, when a BBC reporter interviewed Ghimere via cellular phone.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is deeply disturbed that the Nepalese government has deprived three journalists of their liberty for publishing politically controversial views. As Your Excellency is well aware, democracies depend on the free exchange of information and ideas. It is therefore incomprehensible to us that the peaceful expression of an opinion could ever be classified as a crime, much less treason.
Yubaraj Ghimere, Kailash Shirohiya, and Binod Raj Gyawali should be released at once without conditions of any kind. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.
Ann K. Cooper