Reporters Without Borders condemns death threats made by cadres of the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN) two days ago against 22 journalists in the western district of Dailekh. The next day, the 22 local reporters were forced to leave the district, halting production at two daily newspapers and one weekly. Those behind the threats also ransacked the premises of the daily Hamro Tesro Aankha.
“The threats and attacks on media workers are particularly serious since they occurred in response to calls for justice for Dekendra Raj Thapa, a local journalist who was kidnapped and murdered by cadres of the ruling Maoist party,” the press freedom organization said.
“We urge the authorities to put an end to such threats and guarantee journalists the basic right to work in safety.
“The decision by the government to halt the investigation into Thapa’s murder is at odds with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s statement to journalists at the 43rd annual meeting of the Press Council when he reaffirmed his commitment to freedom of the press.
“The process of national reconciliation now under way does not mean truth and the fight against impunity should be abandoned.”
Party cadres threatened journalists who were protesting during a visit by the prime minister to Dailekh district. The party members publicly warned several journalists they could face the same fate as their colleague Thapa, murdered four years earlier.
Other UCPN activists forced their way into the editorial offices of Hamro Tesro Aankha and vandalised the premises. These attacks took place on the sidelines of violence between members of the ruling party and opposition groups who were demonstrating.
After a meeting the following day of the Dailekh chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), 22 journalists including the chairman of the local FNJ, Pushkar Thapa, and reporters and other staff from the newspapers Nagarik, Republica, Kantipur and Kathmandu Post, the TV station Avenues Television, and local publications and radio stations, concluded that their safety was no longer guaranteed and they should leave the district.
Their departure forced the dailies Dhamaka et Hamro Tesro Aankha and the weekly Sajha Pratibimba to halt production indefinitely, while the radio stations Dhruba Tara and Panchakoshi FM stopped broadcasting.
A few days earlier, on 12 January, Prime Minister Bhattarai defended the government’s decision to call off the investigation into Thapa’s murder, saying not all war-era cases could be investigated.
Referring to the ongoing investigation into the involvement of five Maoist cadres in the murder, Bhattarai said that, if all the cases were investigated separately, the ongoing peace process would be derailed.