Imprisoned journalist dies in jail after transfer to hospital is refused

New York, October 5, 2005 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today held the Nepalese authorities responsible for the death of an imprisoned reporter who died after being denied proper medical treatment. Maheshwar Pahari, 30, who worked for the weekly Rastriya Swabhiman, died of tuberculosis on Tuesday, according to local journalist groups.

Pahari died in a hospital in Pokhara, 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of Kathmandu. Local doctors recommended Pahari be transferred to Kathmandu for better treatment, and members of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) in Pokhara offered to pay to send him, the FNJ said. But officials refused, citing security concerns. He was allowed treatment for various, serious health problems at the local hospital only after repeated appeals by his wife Durga Pahari, local journalists told CPJ.

“After jailing Pahari for his work as a journalist without due process, Nepalese authorities have effectively carried out a death sentence by denying him proper medical treatment,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We hold authorities responsible for his death, and call for an independent investigation into the circumstances.”

Pahari was detained by security forces in the village of Khorako Mukh, in western Nepal’s Kaski district on January 2, 2004. He was held incommunicado for several months. Local journalists believe that his detention was linked to his journalistic work. Pahari maintained close contacts with sources in the Maoist rebel movement, and some sources told CPJ that security forces may have detained him to gather information about the leadership of the insurgency against King Gyanendra.

Pahari was held under an anti-terrorism law, which has been used to jail journalists since it was introduced in November 2001. Authorities released and re-arrested him four times after January 2004 in order to comply with that law, which limits detention without trial to six months. In May, he was released from Kaski jail and arrested before he could leave the compound, local human rights and media advocacy groups reported.

Three other journalists are currently imprisoned in Nepal, according to FNJ.