November 12, 2002
Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand
Prime Minister's Office
Via Facsimile: 977-122-6286Your Excellency:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns today's arrest of Tikaram Rai, editor of the Nepali-language daily Aparanha. Rai was arrested in Kathmandu following the complaint of a senior police officer accused of bribery in a recent Aparanha article.
Rai is being detained at Kathmandu's Hanuman Dhoka District Police Office, according to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ). A police officer told The Associated Press (AP) news agency that Rai could be held for up to 10 days for questioning.
Aparanha had recently reported that police officer Basanta Kuwar had received bribes for issuing driver's licenses, pocketing some 16 million rupees (US$205,000), said the Agence France-Presse news agency. Kuwar says that the report amounts to character assassination and filed a criminal complaint under Nepal's Public Offence Act, according to AP.
As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to the defense of press freedom worldwide, CPJ believes that no journalist should ever be imprisoned for his or her professional work. If an individual finds a particular article defamatory, then proper recourse should be sought through the civil courts.
CPJ is deeply concerned about the erosion of press freedom in Nepal. Journalists there are already extremely vulnerable to arrest under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention and Control) Ordinance, known as TADO, which was introduced in November 2001 to contain the Maoist insurgency. More than 100 journalists have been detained during the last year under TADO's broad provisions, according to the FNJ.
CPJ urges Your Excellency to ensure that no journalist in Nepal is jailed for exercising the right to free expression, and we call for the immediate release of editor Tikaram Rai.
We thank you for your attention to these urgent matters and await your response.