CPJ condemns attacks on journalists by government forces and Maoists

New York, September 15, 2003— The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent wave of attacks on journalists by government security forces and by Maoist rebel forces in Nepal. Since rebels broke a cease-fire agreement on August 27, reports of journalists being kidnapped, arrested, threatened, and even murdered have risen dramatically.

According to local journalists, government security forces have kidnapped at least three journalists in recent weeks in the capital, Kathmandu: Sitaram Baral, the assistant editor of the weekly Janaastha, was abducted after leaving his house to conduct an interview on Saturday, September 13; Subhashankar Kandel, editor of the weekly Janadharana, was reportedly taken from his home on September 9 by plainclothes security forces; and Ramahari Chaulugain, a reporter with the weekly Sanghu, was kidnapped on August 28 by an unknown group suspected to be linked to security forces.

No known charges have been filed against any of the three journalists, all of whose whereabouts are unknown. According to local sources, Kandel was interrogated about books found in his home relating to communism, Maoism, and Leninism.

Maoist rebel forces are also targeting journalists: Gyanendra Khadka, a reporter with the government news service, Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS), was brutally murdered by Maoist rebels on September 7; and Resham Birahi, a reporter and a leader of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), was threatened by rebels in Nepalganj, a town in western Nepal, on August 28, reportedly after writing an article that criticized the rebels.

As the violence escalates, journalists in Nepal are under increased risked of being targeted by both parties to the conflict. In November 2001, when the government called on the army to crush the insurgency, more than 100 journalists were detained, and in 2002, Maoist rebels were responsible for the kidnapping and torture of one journalist and the murder of at least one other journalist.

“The Nepalese government and rebel forces must respect the right and duty of journalists to cover this conflict and must allow them to do so safely,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call on the government to make the charges against these three journalists public, and to release them pending trial in a court of law. We also call on the rebels to stop these violent attacks on journalists.”