CPJ calls for nonpartisan investigation into attack

New York, December 22, 2008–Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s coalition government must carry out an open, independent, and nonpartisan investigation into Sunday’s attack on Himalmedia in Kathmandu, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Journalists protest Maoist attacks on the press in Kathmandu today. (AP/Binod Joshi)
Journalists protest Maoist attacks on the press in Kathmandu today. (AP/Binod Joshi)

According to numerous local and international media reports, about 50 activists, many of whom were supporters of Nepal’s ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), swarmed into Himalmedia’s offices. Himalmedia publishes the English-language weekly Nepali Times and other magazines. In a statement, the publisher said 12 people were injured during the attack, and that the group had broken windows.

The activists said they were angry with critical coverage of the Maoist-led government, which came to power in April, according to the news reports. Recent issues of Himalmedia’s publications, including the Nepali Times, carried stories on “extremist behavior” by Maoists, including threats that had been made to businesses and media organizations. Today, Dahal told local reporters that his party was not directly involved in the attack, and blamed “some immoral agents” who “infiltrated” the party. Dahal promised that his government will look into the incident and prosecute those involved in the attack.

“The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has a long tradition of harassing and attacking journalists,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “In the interest of full transparency, the authorities should carry out an open, nonpartisan investigation into this attack, followed by full prosecution of the perpetrators. Anything less will not reassure the Nepalese people or the rest of the world that Prime Minister Dahal’s government is committed to the free press necessary to ensure a democratic Nepal.”

Journalists have long been under attack in Nepal, with little or no investigation of their deaths. The country ranks eighth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, a list of 13 countries where journalists are murdered on a recurring basis and governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers.