Nepalese journalist abducted by Maoists

New York, March 10, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Maoist rebels for abducting JB Pun Magar, an investigative reporter for the biweekly magazine Himal Khabarpatrika.

Rebels abducted Magar while he was on assignment to cover anti-rebel uprisings in the midwestern district of Kapilbastu. The kidnappers allowed the reporter to call the magazine offices in the capital, Kathmandu, to inform his colleagues that he was in Maoist custody.

“We deplore the rebels’ act of violence against this independent reporter,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge rebel leaders to release Magar immediately and unconditionally, and we hold them responsible for his well-being while in their custody.”

“He is a very professional journalist who was objective and fair even in the most challenging assignment,” said Himal Khabarpatrika Editor Rajendra Dahal in a statement. “We appeal to the Maoists to immediately release him. It is unfortunate that the Maoists have detained him at a time when the state has also been harassing the media.”

Magar has previously written investigative pieces on the Maoist conflict, including a January article in Himal Khabarpatrika about rebel recruitment of child soldiers. He also wrote about anti-Maoist mobs that have razed villages and displaced thousands of people in Kapilbastu in recent weeks.

In November 2004, soldiers detained and interrogated Magar when he was covering an anti-Maoist vigilante group headed by a local criminal in Kapilbastu, according to CPJ sources and news reports.

Magar’s recent abduction by Maoists comes just days after police in Kathmandu detained and interrogated the publisher of Himal Khabarpatrika, Kanak Dixit, who has been critical of King Gyanendra’s takeover of the government on February 1.

Media in Nepal, already at risk from both sides of the conflict, which has intensified in recent years, have faced severe government censorship, official harassment, and in some cases arrest following the king’s abrupt curtailment of civil liberties last month. Along with prohibiting criticism of the royal coup, new restrictions ban reporting on the ongoing Maoist conflict that is not vetted by security personnel.

Two journalists were arrested this week while they covered street demonstrations. On March 8, CPJ noted the arrest of photographer Ashish Sarraf in the southern town of Janakpur. On the same day, Rishiram Pokhrel, editor of the weekly Tanahun Awaj was arrested while covering similar protests in western Nepal’s Tanahun district, according to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists.