May 23, 2002
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
Prime Minister’s Office
Via facsimile: +997 1 227286
Your Excellency: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed by today’s arrest of Tara Neupane, a columnist for the Nepali-language weekly Sanghu.
At around 3:30 p.m., plainclothes officers arrived at the Kathmandu district office of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and took Neupane into custody. He is being held at the Kathmandu Valley police office at Ratna Park, according to the FNJ.
Neupane is a veteran journalist who writes mainly about economic and political affairs, according to local sources. The reason for his arrest is unknown, but Nepalese officials have targeted Sanghu journalists in the past. The weekly’s editor, Gopal Budhathoki, has been detained twice during the last year.
Most recently, Budhathoki was arrested on March 3, 2002, and released on March 26. On March 6, Prime Minister Deuba announced that the journalist had been detained for publishing reports that “encouraged and raised morale of the Maoists.”
According to the FNJ, more than 100 journalists have been arrested since your government imposed a state of emergency in November 2001. The state of emergency is scheduled to expire on May 26.
Today’s arrest comes amid an escalating political crisis in Nepal. On May 22, King Gyanendra acted on Your Excellency’s recommendation to dissolve the Parliament after the ruling Nepali Congress party rejected your call for an extension of the state of emergency. In response, the Nepali Congress today suspended Your Excellency’s membership in the party.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ urgently requests information about the reasons for Tara Neupane’s detention. If Neupane was arrested for his journalistic work, CPJ demands his prompt and unconditional release.
In view of the current crisis, it is particularly crucial to ensure that all journalists can work without fear of arrest or official harassment so that an informed Nepalese public is able to participate in the political process.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.