New York, April 8, 2002—CPJ is gravely concerned about the safety of journalist Demling Lama, who was abducted on April 5 by armed Maoist rebels, according to sources in Nepal.
Lama is the correspondent in the Sindhupalchok District for both Radio Nepal and the national Nepali-language daily Himalaya Times.
At some time during the morning of April 5, more than a dozen armed Maoist rebels entered Lama’s house in Sindhupalchok and kidnapped him while he was sleeping, according to Nepalese press reports. His whereabouts are unknown.
“CPJ calls for our colleague’s immediate release,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge Nepalese rebel forces to guarantee the safety of journalists reporting on the current conflict.”
It is unclear why Lama, who had previously maintained good relations with the Maoists, was targeted, according to local sources. However, both the Himalaya Times and Radio Nepal generally support the government.
Since 1996, Maoist rebels have waged a “people’s war” to abolish Nepal’s constitutional monarchy. More than 2,500 people have died in the conflict, according to international news reports. Both government and rebel forces have been accused of abducting, detaining, and torturing civilians.
After the Maoists stepped up violent attacks last fall, the Nepalese government declared a state of emergency on November 26, 2001. Civil liberties, including press freedom, have been suspended since then. Government security forces have rounded up scores of journalists, human rights activists, and others for questioning.
On April 4, King Gyanendra announced that the government would relax emergency regulations limiting press freedom but would continue to prohibit reports that support the Maoists.