Journalist survives vicious attack in Nepal

New York, December 9, 2009—Police in Nepal should thoroughly investigate reports that journalist Tika Bista was brutally attacked on Tuesday in reprisal for her work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Bista was discovered unconscious near her home in Rukum district, western Nepal on Tuesday afternoon, with serious injuries to her head, legs, and arms, according to local press freedom group the Federation of Nepali Journalists. The wounds suggested she had been attacked with a razor blade and pushed down a steep hill, the federation and local news reports said. Her laptop and mobile phone were found smashed nearby along with scattered documents. Bista, a reporter with the local daily Rajdheni who also contributed to other newspapers, was a member of the federation’s local chapter. She was airlifted to Kathmandu in a critical condition today, according to local news reports.

Bista reported receiving death threats from Maoist groups on November 29 after publishing a commentary in the local Jantidhara weekly that criticized local members of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) for using intimidation and threats, the federation said. The Kathmandu-based human rights group Freedom Forum said Bista had called a colleague before the assault to say three men were following her.

“The media environment for journalists has not improved since Nepal’s transition to democratic rule in 2008,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “Police must investigate the death threats Bista received and bring the perpetrators of this vicious attack to justice.”

CPJ research shows that acts of violence against Nepali journalists historically have occurred frequently and without official investigations. The attack against Bista is the most serious journalist assault reported in Nepal since the shocking January murder of Uma Singh.

CPJ wrote to former Prime Minister Dahal—the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader—in February to protest the rise in unpunished attacks on the press. Since then, political rifts within the democratically elected coalition government have slowed efforts to combat impunity. Dahal resigned in May after a dispute with President Ram Baran Yadav. He was replaced by Madhav Kuma Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), who formed a coalition government without Maoist participation.

Nepal placed eighth on CPJ’s 2009 Impunity Index, which ranks the 14 worst countries in the world for solving journalist murders recorded by CPJ since 1998.