Nepalese journalist detained after report of explosion

New York, March 7, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Nepalese authorities’ detention of journalist Jay Gupta, editor and publisher of the Kathmandu-based Uptyaka Daily and the weekly Dishanirdesh. Police arrested Gupta on Friday after his publications reported that a bomb went off near a royal vacation retreat that King Gyanendra and his wife were visiting in the central town of Pokhara, local journalists told CPJ.

Gupta, detained at a Kathmandu police station, may be held for up to 10 days while police investigate his activities. Other Nepalese news outlets also published reports of the February 28 explosion, but only Gupta has been detained. Gupta has not been charged and the government has not explained his detention.

Nepal’s government currently holds several journalists in detention. Security officials arrested and detained journalist Ammar Sunar on Thursday but released him after questioning, according to the local press freedom group, Freedom Forum.

“We strongly urge the Nepalese government to immediately release all journalists now in its custody and to stop its unjust practice of jailing journalists for doing their jobs,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “It is past time for King Gyanendra to honor his earlier vow to roll back the massive restrictions his government has imposed on the press in the last year.”

King Gyanendra dismissed parliament and seized absolute power after declaring a state of emergency on February 1, 2005. Since then his government has enacted various repressive media regulations, including a total ban on broadcasting news over FM radio stations and harsh new punishments for criminal defamation charges, which hamper Nepalese journalists’ ability to gather and present political news.