Crackdown continues; journalist arrested

New York, April 11, 2005 – Police in the Tanahu district in western Nepal are holding a local journalist for a three-month detention. The journalist, editor Robin Poudel of Tanahu Aawaj weekly newspaper, was arrested on Friday while covering a demonstration in Damauli that was called to protest the state of emergency established by King Gyanendra.

According to local journalists, Poudel has been held in the Tanahu district police office since his arrest. On Sunday, he was served a warrant notifying him that he would be detained for three months. The Kathmandu Post reported that the warrant was issued under the Public Security Act, which sanctions the preventive detention of those considered a threat to domestic security and tranquility, according to Chief District Officer Govinda Mani Bhurtel.

Dozens of journalists have been detained since King Gyanendra’s state of emergency was declared February 1. Although most journalists are held for several days and then released, as many as ten are now in detention, according to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists.

“Robin Poudel is the latest victim of the government’s widespread crackdown on private media, which has included dozens of arrests,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “CPJ calls on the government to immediately release all imprisoned journalists and allow the media to do its job of informing the Nepali public about vital issues, including reactions to the current state of emergency.”

Cooper is currently in Nepal on a mission examining the severe press restrictions implemented by the government since the king’s proclamation.