Deepak Sapkota

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

On November 26, police raided the offices of three publications closely associated with Nepal’s Maoist movement: the daily Janadisha, the weekly Janadesh, and the monthly Dishabodh. The police arrested nine staff members, including seven journalists, and also confiscated equipment and written materials. The arrested journalists included Sharma, an editor for Janadisha; Rokaya, whose position at Janadisha was not known; Archarya, an editor of Janadesh; Bhandari, executive editor of Janadesh; Sapkota, a reporter for Janadesh; Dhital, a reporter for Dishabodh; and Gyawali, executive editor of Dishabodh.

All were arrested about two hours before the government declared a state of emergency and enacted the Terrorist and Destructive Activities (Control and Punishment) ordinance, which named the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) a terrorist organization and therefore illegal. The government announcement also stipulated that any organizations or individuals supporting the CPN-M and its activities would be considered terrorists, according to local news reports. Under the new regulations, terrorism carries a life sentence.

On January 9, 2002, lawyers for the journalists filed a habeas corpus petition to the Supreme Court, which then issued a show cause notice to the government. The government responded that six of the journalists were charged under the terrorism ordinance for engaging in activities supporting the Maoist movement, according to a lawyer for the journalists. At press time, the government had not yet issued a response for Om Sharma’s case, and the hearing date for all the cases would not be set until it did. The defense lawyers argue that the journalists’ detention is illegal because they were arrested before the terrorist ordinance was officially declared.

In the aftermath of the state of emergency declaration on November 26, dozens of journalists were rounded up for interrogation or arrest, although most were released after a short period of time. CPJ confirmed that the following journalists remained in prison on December 31, 2001. By year’s end, the government had not released information about the reasons behind these journalists’ arrests. Local journalists and human rights organizations were unable to determine whether any of the following had been officially charged.