A man holds a photo of Singh. (Reuters)
A man holds a photo of Singh. (Reuters)

Two sentenced in Nepal journalist’s murder

New York, June 14, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed today the conviction of two suspects in the 2009 murder of journalist Uma Singh, but called for a continued investigation into the remaining suspects in the attack. 

A court in Dhanusa district sentenced Lalita Singh and Nemlal Paswan to life imprisonment for their involvement in the brutal killing, according to local news reports. A group stabbed the Janakpur Today and Radio Janakpur correspondent to death in her home in Dhanusa, in the southeast near the border with India, in reprisal for her reporting on land grabs, according to CPJ research. News reports at the time said as many as 15 people carried out the fatal assault.

The court acquitted three other suspects who had been accused of the murder. According to reports, they are Shrawan Yadav, Abhisek Singh and Bemalesh Jha. The English-language daily The Kathmandu Post cited the local district attorney’s office saying it would appeal their acquittal. Local press freedom group Federation of Nepali Journalists said the man who ordered the attack, Umesh Yadav, has not been detained or charged.  

“We welcome the convictions in Uma Singh’s horrifying murder case, but full justice has yet to be arrived at,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Everyone involved in the killing, including the mastermind, must be detained and fairly prosecuted.”

A climate of impunity for attacks on the press has developed in Nepal, stemming partly from failures to investigate abuses committed by both government and insurgents during the former monarchy’s decade-long civil war, according to CPJ research. Internal schisms within the current democratically-elected coalition in Nepal also threaten law and order.

On May 30, a central court in central Bara district sentenced two men to life imprisonment for the murder of journalist Birendra Shah. In that case, as in Singh’s, three suspects accused of masterminding the murder have evaded detention and trial.

CPJ’s 2011 Impunity Index highlights countries where journalist murders go uninvestigated, calculating the unsolved deaths as a percentage of the country’s population. Nepal appears in seventh place.