Nepalese journalists threatened during Bhattarai visit

New York, January 24, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the threats and acts of intimidation against journalists in Nepal during Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s visit on Wednesday to the western district of Dailekh.

Hundreds of people in Dailekh, including journalists and opposition party supporters, gathered to protest against what they perceived to be Bhattarai’s interference in the arrests of five individuals in connection with the 2004 murder of radio journalist Dekendra Raj Thapa, according to news reports. Four of the accused belonged to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which heads Bhattarai’s coalition, and the other is affiliated with the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, a breakaway faction of the ruling party, according to news reports. Earlier this month, Bhattarai had said the arrests were a plot by human rights activists to derail the peace process, according to news reports. The five accused are still in custody, but no charges have been brought against them, news reports said.

In the course of the protests, at least six journalists were injured, according to a press release issued by Freedom Forum, a Kathmandu-based pro-democracy organization, and local news reports. News accounts did not immediately identify all of the injured journalists or their affiliations and did not offer further details about the attacks.

Maoist party members and supporters also prevented at least 10 journalists from covering a district convention of the ruling party in Dailekh on the same day, which was being attended by the prime minister and other Maoist party officials. Party cadres surrounded the journalists for half an hour and threatened them, saying they would meet the same fate as Thapa, according to news reports. News accounts reported that the ruling party members allowed journalists seen as being close to the party to cover the convention.

“Members and supporters of Nepal’s ruling party should stop harassing and threatening journalists,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.  “The government must act decisively to stop these acts and punish the perpetrators.”

Nepal ranks sixth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free.

  • For more data and analysis on Nepal, visit CPJ’s Nepal page here.