Reporters Without Borders said today it was shocked and deeply saddened to
learn of the death of Birendra Shah after Maoist leaders told a press
conference that the journalist had been killed on the day he was kidnapped
exactly one month ago.
The press conference was told that party cadres had abducted and killed
34-year-old Shah, who worked for privately-owned Nepal FM radio, Dristri
Weekly and Avenues TV in Bara, southern Nepal.
The Maoist leaders said it had been established that Shah had been beaten to
death on 5 October 2007, the day he was snatched. A local newspaper revealed
that it was Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, a member of the Maoist Bara regional
committee who personally carried out the fatal beating of the journalist.
An investigative commission set up the Maoist movement reported that Shah
was kidnapped on the orders of Lal Bahadur Chaudhary. Two other party
cadres, Kundan Faujdar and Ram Yekbal Sahani, helped him to abduct and
murder the journalist. They then buried him in the jungle region some 160
kilometres from the capital. Lal Bahadur Chaudhary has reportedly fled to
India to avoid arrest.
„We urge the authorities to take the necessary steps against those who
committed this vile murder," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
„The killers of Birendra Shah have already been identified for several days.
They should be arrested and tried. The investigation should also identify
the instigators of the murder. We also urge the Maoist leaders to rapidly
punish all cadres and militants implicated in this killing and recent
attacks against journalists."
The organisation expressed its sincere condolences to Shah‚s family and
colleagues. He is the second journalist to be killed since the fall of King
Gyanendra‚s regime in April 2006, which preceded a return to democracy
Reporters Without Borders calls on the government to redouble its efforts to obtain the release of
Birendra Shah, a journalist who was kidnapped in the Bara region on 5 October. “The authorities and the leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) must do everything possible to ensure that Birendra Shah is rescued,” the organisation said. “The absence of any news about Shah is very worrying.”
During a meeting yesterday with Shah's family and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), the Maoist leader known by the nom de guerre of Prachanda promised to punish those who kidnapped Shah. “He did not deny the reports that Maoist activists were involved in Shah's abduction,” FNJ president Bisnu Nishthuri said.
Prime Minister Girijia Prasad Koirala yesterday told Shah's family that the place where he is being held would be made public in the coming days.
The media and some parliamentarians have been very critical of the CPN-M's leaders in the Bara region, including Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, Kundan Phaujdar, Ram Ekwal Sahani and Hareram Patel, on account of their alleged role in Shah's abduction.
Some 200 journalists demonstrated in the capital yesterday in protest against the abduction of Shah, who often wrote about the Maoist former guerrillas.
Reporters Without Borders today condemned escalating kidnappings of journalists after three were snatched in less than a week, two of whom were later freed.
The organisation has joined the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) to urge the government to launch an all-out search for Birendra Sah, who was abducted in Bara district.
Sah, 34, correspondent for Nepal FM, Dristri Weekly and Avenues TV in Bara, central Nepal close to the border with India, was snatched in the Pipara Bazaar market on 5 October by a group of unknown kidnappers He is a member of the Press Chautari Nepal association and of an leftist political party.
The FNJ on 7 October sent a team to Bara to try to get the journalist released. Rallies were held in Kathmandu and Bara calling for his unconditional release and condemning growing insecurity.
"The authorities must identify those responsible for this series of kidnappings," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. It is deplorable that this is intended to create a climate of fear among journalists in the provinces."
"The Maoist party, some members of which have been suspected of involvement in some kidnappings cases, should also condemn these practices," the organisation said.
Ram Dev Das, editor of the magazine Terai Khabar Patrika, was kidnapped at the same time as Birendra Sah, but he was released a few hours later by his abductors, who beat him up. Dev Das told the FNJ that the kidnapping had been orchestrated by the Maoists, but he was too shocked to say anything more.
A local Maoist official, Kshetra Bahadur Shrestha Oeaneel, denied that his party had any involvement in the abduction. But local sources said that two Maoist leaders, Lal Bahadur Chaudhari Oesandeep and Kundan Phaujdar could be behind the kidnapping because they had a dispute with the journalist.
On 3 October, a reporter on the daily Abhiyan and on Mahakali FM, Pappu Gurund, was snatched in the early hours of the morning from his home in Dodhara district, western Nepal, along with his wife, Amrita Gurung. The couple were rescued after three days in captivity. Pappu Gurund said the kidnappers had threatened reprisals if he did not give up his job as a journalist. He believed that the Maoists were implicated in his abduction, which was denied by Maoist leader in Dodhara, Indra Rawat. He said that local residents had complained of financial misdealing on the part of the journalist.
Cadres of the Young Communist League (YCL, Maoist) attempted to kidnap Madhav Basnet, a journalist on the Dristi Weekly, from his office in Kathmandu on 14 August. They also threatened to kill him. The militants only left when the journalist called YCL co-ordinator, Ganesh Man Pun. Maoist cadres had also surrounded the newspaper's main offices. The journalist left the Maoist movement three years earlier and according to the editor Shambhu Shrestha, the kidnap attempt was linked to his refusal to rejoin the party.