By breaking off a cease-fire, the Maoists plunged Nepal back into the cycle of violence. The security forces arrested, detained in undisclosed locations, tortured or threatened about 100 journalists. More journalists were arrested in Nepal in 2003 than in any other country in the world. The Maoists murdered one journalist and threatened dozens of others for allegedly spying for the army. It was a grim year for press freedom.
The Maoists decided to put an end to a seven-month-old cease-fire in August 2003 after a setback in political negotiations with the royalist government. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was again declared a "terrorist movement" on 28 August. The authorities banned any demonstration or the publication of any news favourable to the rebels on 2 September. Violence resumed with renewed vigour, with an average of 15 deaths a day. The king ordered the security forces to finish with a rebellion that was blamed for all the country's ills. The pro-Maoist press disappeared again, and its journalists went underground. Unable to arrest the most senior Maoist leaders, the security forces instead targeted journalists suspected of sympathising with the "people's war."
The suspension of hostilities during the first seven months of 2003 had led to the release of many imprisoned journalists and an improvement in working conditions for the press. The pro-Maoist, Nepali-language weekly Janadesh had even reappeared in the country's news stands after being banned for 18 months. But it was closed down again after the collapse of the cease-fire and all its journalists went back underground.
King Gyanendra has governed with an iron fist since 4 October 2002, when he dissolved parliament and swept the traditional parties aside. Unable to find a way out of the political crisis and restore stability, the monarchy gave full powers to the Royal Nepal Army to destroy the Maoist "terrorists." Human rights violations, in particular torture and the holding of detainees in undisclosed locations, became widespread.
Privately-owned newspapers and radio stations continued to report the news freely. Articles on government corruption continued to appear in one of the main dailies. The lack of access to information and, in particular, self-censorship applied only to military operations against the Maoists. A journalist in the southern city of Nepalgunj told Reporters Without Borders: "Our access to the field is very limited. The military's threats make us fear the worst if we go and investigate atrocities. We have come to practice self-censorship in a big way."
The government tried to make the news media support the struggle against the Maoists more openly in 2003. The Maoist "rebels" were again sometimes referred to as "terrorists" in headlines in the national press. A small number of publications linked to the government adopted a very aggressive rhetoric toward the Maoists.
Several thousand persons suspected of being Maoist activists or sympathisers were arrested by the security forces in their fight against "terrorism." These arrests and detentions were carried out with the utmost illegality and official notification was rarely given to either victim or family. All strata of the population were affected. About 50 journalists were detained at one point in 2003. Arbitrary arrests were increasingly used against journalists working for news media that supported the extreme-left opposition. Newspaper such as the weeklies Sanghu and Jana Astha which voiced criticism and reported abuses and corruption were the most frequent targets. Detainees were not taken before a judge and the maximum periods for detention (90 days under the anti-terrorist law) were not respected. The military and police moreover practised torture.
Reporters Without Borders received accounts of such torture as repeated violent blows to the soles of the feet; forced submersion in water; electric shocks (especially to the genitals); and simultaneous blows to both sides of the head, causing partial deafness and sensory disorientation. The government still refused to confirm that the prominent pro-Maoist journalist Krishna Sen died while being tortured in a Kathmandu police station in May 2002.
The army publicly acknowledged in December that around 20 soldiers had been punished for abuses against the civilian population. The announcement followed a visit to Nepal by the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, who reportedly voiced concern about human rights violations. Prior to that, the National Human Rights Commission had in November invited the UN special rapporteurs on torture and disappearances to visit Nepal in view of the deteriorating situation.
There was some good news in 2003 – the appearance of new electronic media. Two new terrestrial broadcast TV stations, Kantipur Television and Image Channel, began operating on 13 July, offering news programming in competition with the state-owned Nepal Television. As well as the many FM radio stations, community radio developed in 2003, rescuing some regions from isolation. In the west of the country, for example, the Karnali community radio station was inaugurated in November, broadcasting educational and health programmes in the local language. Nepal now has at least 25 community radio stations. The Maoists did not lag behind. They launched their own station, Radio Janaganatantra Nepal (Radio Republic Nepal), in the west of the country on 7 November.
Journalists' organisations, especially the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), repeatedly denounced press freedom violations. On 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, more than 500 journalists marched in Kathmandu to demand real press freedom in Nepal. FNJ president Taranath Dahal said there had been a slight improvement since the start of the cease-fire between the rebels and the government in January after the "black year" of 2002.
Anti-terrorist measures sometimes had surprising consequences for journalists. Gunaja Raj Luitel, a reporter with the national daily Kantipur, had his pen confiscated when be arrived at Jumla airport in western Nepal on 20 November.
Two journalists killed
Gyanendra Khadka, 35, of the governmental news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) was brutally murdered by individuals identified as Maoist rebels on 7 September 2003 in the district of Sindhupalchowk, northeast of Kathmandu. A teacher in the village of Jyamire as well as a journalist, Khadka was taken from his classroom by men who tied him to a post and publicly cut his throat. He had contributed to many newspapers and for several years was the correspondent of Nepal Samacharpatra, one of the country's most important dailies, in the Melamchi valley.
Binod Sajana Chaudhary, a contributor to the weekly Nepalgunj Express in the south of the country who used to work for a pro-Maoist newspaper, was gunned down at point-blank range together with a Maoist activist on 27 September. The daily Nepal Samacharpatra quoted Maoist sources as saying Chaudhary was killed by plain-clothes police after showing his ID. He was going to Kegaun to get information and, according to the same sources, he was not armed. Local representatives of the security forces told the press that Chaudhary and the Maoist activist were killed in an armed clash.
Another journalist was murdered in 2003 but at the end of the year it was still impossible to say if his death was linked to his work.
Amar Lama, the editor of the news weekly Taja Khabar (Fresh News), was kidnapped on 27 July by three individuals who went to his newspaper's office, introduced themselves as police officers and said they wanted to talk to him. Lama refused to go with them and fled. A chase ensued in the streets of the Kalikasthan neighbourhood of Kathmandu. The three assailants finally caught Lama, beat him and took him away in a taxi. Two women who witnessed this said one of the killers made a call on his mobile phone to say "the job is done." His body was found with a bullet in the head an hour later in Kirtipur, 10 km south of Kathmandu. Dataram Adhikari, the taxi driver who drove the three men before and after Lama's abduction, surrendered himself to the police the next day. He said he had no links with the killers.
A few hours later, police arrested three suspects including Binita Shrestha, a former business associate of Lama. Lama's wife told the police Lama had received threats from Shrestha. The same day, the government put judge Madav Lal Shrestha in charge of the investigation. He concluded that the killing was linked to Lama's political past and not his journalistic activities. Lama's wife also believed it was an act of political revenge. Lama was known in Nepal for being the driver of the car in which two historic leaders of the far-left CPN-UML party were killed in an accident in 1993. The CPN-UML accused Lama of responsibility and he served a five-year prison sentence. He had been a member of the Nepali Congress Party ever since his release and had only recently taken over the running of Taja Khabar.
Five journalists kidnapped
Dhana Bahadur Rokka Magar, a news presenter for Radio Nepal's programme Kham (in the Magar language), had still not been released at the end of 2003. He was kidnapped on the road from Jaluke to Surkhet (in the west of the country) on 1 August 2002, when rebels stopped the bus he was travelling in. They made him get out and go with them. At least five other passengers including an employee of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, a British NGO, were also abducted. In September 2002, Maoists told journalists that Magar was still alive and was being held in one of their camps. They accused him of being a government spy. According to some sources, Magar's father was killed by the Maoists. After an accord was signed in March 2003 on the release of prisoners of war, some Maoist leaders undertook to have him released. But his release did not take place.
Journalists Karuna Thapa and Kurma Raj Shahi of the national daily Nepal Samacharpatra and Sarita Aryal, the editor of the monthly Sukhi Sansar, were kidnapped by Maoist rebels in western district of Kalikot on 4 May 2003. All three succeeded in escaping three days later while their abductors were absent. They told the daily Kathmandu Post that the rebels were inconsiderate towards them, giving them just bread and salt to eat for two days.
Padam Raj Poudel of the state-owned daily Gorkhapatra was kidnapped in Pokhara, in the central district of Kaski, on 6 June by Maoist rebels who accused him of trying to collect money from a hotel owner in the name of the Maoists. He was released on 17 June.
At least 51 journalists imprisoned
Some pro-Maoist journalists undeniably used their columns to defend the policies of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which has been outlawed since 1996. But the government has never been able to establish that they were guilty of crimes or directs calls for violence. Reporters Without Borders defends the journalists of banned pro-Maoist publications insofar as they have not directly participated in the crimes committed by the proponents of the "people's war." Some Nepalese journalists maintain that the pro-Maoist publications carry "nothing but propaganda." But other observers argue that the support these journalists give to the Maoist cause does not necessarily mean they are party members.
At least 12 Nepalese journalists were being held by the security forces at the end of 2003.
Komal Nath Baral, the editor of the weekly Swaviman, was still detained at the end of the year. He had been held in Kaski prison, in central Nepal, since 21 December 2001. The interior ministry on 4 September 2002 confirmed that the army arrested him.
Swaviman deputy editor Janardan Biyogi was still being held at the end of the year. He was arrested by the army on 27 December 2001.
Arjun Thapaliya, the administrator of the monthly Dishabodh, was arrested by the army on 28 August 2002 in Kapan, near Kathmandu. He was still detained at the end of 2003 although the authorities had still not provided any information about him.
At the end of the year, Nirmal Kumari Budathoki, a journalist with the pro-Maoist daily Janadisha, was still detained in Bhairav Nath Gan barracks near Kathmandu, where she had been held without charge since May 2002. In August 2003, the daily Kantipur published an appeal from her 10-year-old daughter, Praul Khanal, in which she said Budathoki was mentally disturbed as a result of the torture she had received in detention. The International Red Cross was subsequently allowed to visit her.
Bal Kumar Khadka of the weekly Khulla Pratispardha was held for three days in Pokhara (200 km west of Kathmandu) after being arrested on 28 August 2003. Ram Hari Chaulagain of the weekly Sanghu was kidnapped the same day from his newspaper. He was seen for the last time in the Kathmandu neighbourhood of New Baneswar as he was been bundled into a car. He was released on 17 September after being held at Singhdurbar barracks.
Purna Biram, a poet and journalist with the monthlies Mulyankan and Dishabodh and the now-closed pro-Maoist weekly Janadesh, was arrested in Kathmandu on 29 August. He was reading poems at a demonstration when he was taken away by the security forces, which denied any role in his arrest. He was released on 13 November.
TV station employee Nilkantha Tiwari was arrested on 1 September, a few days after being kidnapped for several hours by the police. His wife and fellow journalist Mina Sharma, who was herself arrested and tortured by the security forces in 2002, said Tiwari was tortured several times. He was released a few days later.
Subhashankar Kandel, the editor of the weekly Jana Dharana and a member of the editorial staff of a newly-launched commercial TV station in Kathmandu, Image Metro Channel, was kidnapped from his home on 9 September by 12 men in civilian dress, who searched his house and confiscated all communist-influenced literature. He was released on 1 October, re-arrested on 18 October and released again on 19 October. He said he was kept blindfolded and with his hands bound, and was tortured. The security forces questioned him about his links with the Maoists.
Pushkal Dhakal, a member of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, was arrested on 12 September and released the next day.
Sitaram Baral, the deputy editor of the weekly Jana Astha, was arrested on 13 September in the Kathmandu neighbourhood of Koteswor and was released on 28 September. He said he was taken blindfolded and with his hands tied to the military prison, where he was beaten until he lost consciousness. Thereafter, he lost all feeling in his left hand.
Prem Nath Joshi of the weekly Jana Dristi and the Shangrila Voice was arrested on 13 September and released on 30 September.
Nawaraj Pahadi, the former president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists in the western district of Lamjung and a contributor to the national daily Rajdhani, was arrested on 21 September and was released on 24 October.
Chandra Kantal Paudel, a journalist with the Pokhara-based Samadhan Daily, was arrested 21 September and formally detained. He was released on 24 October.
Navin Bivas, a freelance journalist and poet also known as Kiran Usa Pun, was arrested on 21 September. A few days later, the supreme court asked the defence and interior ministries to bring Bivas before a judge within three days, but the ministries did not comply. He was finally released on 22 November. He said he did not know where he was detained because he was blindfolded the entire time.
Madhav Pokhrel, a contributor to the weekly Hank, was arrested in his bookstore in Kathmandu on 2 October for allegedly supporting a left-wing party, Najamorcha Nepal, in his writing. The authorities had still not provided any information about him at the end of the year.
Sunbindra Budhamagar, the editor of the monthly review Nishal, was arrested on 11 October after publishing an article entitled "Two kingdoms, two armies," which displeased the authorities. The premises housing the magazine's printing equipment were also ransacked. The authorities did not confirm that he had been detained and it was not known where he was held. His sister, Nischal Monthly, brought a motion against the security forces before the supreme court and Budhamagar was released on 19 November.
Freelance news photographer Hari Regmi was kidnapped on 16 October from his photographic studio in the Balaju neighbourhood of Kathmandu by three members of the security forces. His family received no word of him thereafter and the authorities had still not provided any information about him at the end of the year.
Raju Chhetri, the managing editor of the weekly Rastriya Swaviman, was arrested on 18 October in the village of Pumdibhumdi, near the central town of Pokhara. He was beaten in front of some of the village's inhabitants. Thereafter, it was not known where he was being held and the authorities denied that he had been arrested. Known for being pro-Maoist, Chhetri had gone underground in July after the collapse of the third series of negotiations. He had already been arrested before the cease-fire broke down. The authorities had still not provided any information about him at the end of the year.
Baikuntha Bhandari, the deputy editor of the monthly Nepal Today, was kidnapped on 19 October by unidentified individuals from his home in the Dhumbahari neighbourhood of Kathmandu. He had received a telephone threat the week before from someone who demanded a large sum of money. The authorities had still not provided any information about him at the end of the year.
Yogesh Rawal, a correspondent for the daily Rajdhani (Capital), was arrested on 24 October in the western town Tikapur by about 20 men belonging to the security forces. The authorities had still not provided any information about him at the end of the year.
Dhan Bahadur Magar, an employee of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists in Kathmandu and former journalist for the pro-Maoist newspaper Janadesh, was arrested by the security forces on 18 November and was held in an undisclosed location. He had previously been detained for nearly four months in 2002 because of articles deemed to be pro-Maoist. The authorities had still not provided any information about him at the end of 2003.
The security forces arrested Bhai Kaji Ghimire, the editor of the monthly Samadristi, while he was on his way to his office in Kathmandu on 3 December. The authorities had still not provided any information about him at the end of the year.
Ram Krishna Adhikari, a journalist with the weekly Sanghu and the radio station Times FM, was arrested by plain-clothes members of the security forces in Kathmandu on 10 December after a meeting held by the Human Rights Organisation of Nepal (HURON). Sanghu's editor Gopal Budhathoki told Reporters Without Borders that Adhikari, who is known for criticising the authorities in his articles, was arrested to frighten all the other journalists who criticise the regime. "Whenever they arrest a journalist, they accuse him of being a Maoist supporter, which we are not," Budhathoki added. The authorities had still not provided any information about Adhikari at the end of the year.
Puskal Gautam, a former reporter with the daily Rajdhani, was arrested at the printing works he now runs in Kathmandu on 2 December.
Ybaraj Dahal, a journalist with the weekly Jalapa Sandesh, was arrested in Kathmandu on 22 December.
The end of the state of emergency and the truce reached between the government and the Maoists led to the release of dozens of journalists who had been arrested in 2001 and 2002. In all, about 150 pro-Maoist journalists had been arrested by the police and the army. The authorities had detained about 100 other journalists.
Dev Kumar Yadav, the correspondent of the pro-Maoist weekly Janadisha in the eastern district of Siraha, was freed on bail on 7 January 2003, after being held for 13 months. Yadav had turned himself into the police on 28 November 2001 following the declaration of a state of emergency.
Nau Bahadur Tamang, a pro-Maoist freelance journalist who had been detained arbitrarily since 24 July 2002, was charged under the Terrorist And Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) on 9 January 2003. Initially held in Dolkha-Jiri barracks, where the armed forces tortured him for the first two months, he had been transferred to Hanumandhokha police station on 25 October 2002. He was finally released with about 10 other journalists in March 2003. However, the violence he underwent while detained, which include several rib fractures, left him suffering from fainting spells, paralysis in the feet and neck, pains in the hands and weakened vision.
Dev Ram Yadav, a journalist with the weekly Jana Astha, was released on 17 January after being held since the start of 2002 in Saptari prison. The authorities had accused him of supporting the Maoists in his articles.
Bharat Sigdel, a journalist with the pro-Maoist newspaper Janadisha who had been detained on 19 May 2002, was finally charged under the anti-terrorist laws on 21 January. A judge ordered his provisional release, but the authorities appealed on 26 January to the Lalitpur court which extended his detention by transferring him to Hanumandhokha police station. Sigdel described the torture he underwent at the time of his arrest to a Nepalese lawyer who was allowed to visit him in his cell on 4 January. He said police in the town of Mahendra beat him plastic pipes and wooden batons for 48 hours, badly injuring his thighs, back, ribs and feet, all the while questioning him about his links with Maoist leaders. Throughout the first three days of his detention, his hands were kept tied, his eyes were blindfolded and he was given no food. He was then held in various police stations before being transferred to Hanumandhokha prison on 17 July 2002. He was finally released on bail on 25 March 2003.
Lal Bahadur Chalauni, another pro-Maoist freelance journalist who had been detained arbitrarily, appealed against his detention on 21 January, but was unsuccessful.
However, Atindra Neupani, who had been detained for several months and interrogated at the same time as Bharat Sigdel, was released.
Reporters Without Borders was informed in January of the release of several journalists. Baikuntha Dahal, a freelance journalist and lawyer, was set free after being held without charge since 29 November 2001 in the district of Udayapur. Chitra Chaudhari, the editor of the local weekly Nawacharcha, was released after more than a year of detention in regional police headquarters in Tikapur (in Kailali district). Bhim Sapkota, a journalist with the weekly Narayani Khabar Patrika, was released after being held since 6 May 2002.
Kumar Shah, a regular contributor to pro-Maoist newspapers, was released by the security forces on 6 February. Suresh Shahi, another pro-Maoist journalist, was released on 15 February.
Om Sharma, the editor of the pro-Maoist daily Janadisha, was released on 7 February as a result of a supreme court ruling. This was the fifth time the court ordered his release, but the authorities refused to comply on the previous occasions. Sharma had been arrested at his office by security forces on 26 November 2001, the day a state of emergency was proclaimed. He was initially held in an unknown location for 26 days before being transferred to Bhadragol prison outside Kathmandu. Another pro-Maoist journalist, Prasad Khanal, was also released on 7 February after 15 months in prison.
Posh (or Biswa) Raj Poudel, a journalist with the local newspaper Chure Sandesh, was released by the security forces on 25 February after being held for more than a year in Chitwan prison, southwest of the capital.
Binod Chhetri, a journalist with the weekly Rastriya Swabhiman who had been accused of supporting the Maoists, was released from Kashi prison in Pokhara, west of Kathmandu, on 27 February. Punya Paudyal, the head of the Pokhara branch of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, attributed his release to the approaches made by local journalist to the authorities.
Khil Bahadur Bhandari, the editor of the pro-Maoist newspaper Janadesh, was released by the authorities on 4 March after 16 months of detention without any kind of trial. The security forces, who suspected him of being in regular touch with Maoist leaders, had waited until nearly a year after his arrest to confirm that he was being held.
It was reported that Nim Bahadur Budhathoki, an editorial assistant with the pro-Maoist newspaper Janadisha who had been held since 26 November 2001, was released on around 10 March. The pro-Maoist journalist Atindra Neupane of the daily Janadisha was also released. She had been arrested in May 2002 near Kathmandu together with pro-Maoist intellectual and journalist Krishna Sen, who died under torture later the same month.
In the course of their peace talks, the government and the Maoists agreed on 13 March to free all prisoners of war and political prisoners. Each side also undertook not to kidnap or arrest the other side's supporters. Badri Prasad Sharma, the editor of the Baglung Weekly, was released the same day after 15 months in detention in Baglung. He had been arrested at the same time as many other local journalists on 26 December 2001, after a state of emergency was declared in Nepal. He was imprisoned in Baglung without being given any kind of trial.
The supreme court on 20 March ordered the release of four journalists who had been detained under the anti-terrorist laws for allegedly supporting the rebels. They were Maheswar Dahal and Ram Karki of Nepali Awaj (a pro-Maoist newspaper published in India), who were arrested on 11 July 2002 in New Delhi; Sangita Khadka, a reporter for the pro-Maoist newspapers Janadisha and Jana Aawhan, arrested on 20 May 2002 in Kathmandu; and freelance journalist Binod Dahal, arrested around the same time in the district of Sindhuli. All four were set free from Kathmandu central prison the day after the court issued its ruling.
Shiva Tiwari, the managing editor of the pro-Maoist daily Janadisha, was finally released on 24 March after being held for 10 months. The supreme court had twice ordered his release, on 21 November 2002 and 18 February 2003, but Tiwari had been re-arrested by police each time as he left prison. He was originally arrested in Kathmandu on 20 May 2002, at the same time as Janadisha's editor Krishna Sen, who died under torture a week or so later. On his release, Tiwari told the local press freedom organisation CEHURDES that he had been tortured from May to August 2002, when he was transferred to another prison.
The government on 29 July announced the release of Mumaram Khanal, the editor of the pro-Maoist monthly Dishabodh, as a result of an executive decision. Suspected by the security forces of being a Maoist leader, Khanal had been detained in the eastern district of Saptari since the beginning of 2002. His release was one of the conditions set by the Maoists for resuming peace talks with the government.
36 journalists detained
The police detained about 30 journalists on 11 September 2003 when they were calmly demonstrating in Kathmandu to protest against the killing of fellow journalist Gyanendra Khadka by the Maoists. The police stopped them under a recently issued ban on public meetings. They were taken to a police post and released 15 minutes later.
Roshan Karki, a correspondent for the daily Spacetime in the district of Sindhupalchowk (northeast of Kathmandu), was kidnapped by members of the security forces on 23 October and interrogated for four hours in the district's barracks. He was then released subject to his remaining available to the army.
Madhav Bidrohi, a journalist with the daily Spacetime and president of the FNJ branch in the southeastern district of Jhapa, was detained and interrogated for five hours by the security forces on 3 November.
Members of the security forces ransacked the hotel room of Shahiman Rai, a correspondent for the daily Kantipur in Khotang (in the eastern district of Bhojpur), on 9 November, confiscating photographs that showed injured Maoist rebels and scenes of destruction by the security forces. Rai had just finished a report about the victims of violence by both rebels and government forces. The next day, when the raid on Rai's hotel room was mentioned in Kantipur and several local newspapers, Rai was detained for four hours for interrogation and was threatened by the security forces.
Sharad Adhikari, a correspondent for the daily Spacetime and the weekly Jana Astha in the western town of Ghorahi, was beaten and arrested by soldiers on 13 November. He was released a few hours later following the intervention of Sushil Gautam, the president of the FNJ branch in the district of Dang.
Babita Basnet, the editor of the weekly Ghatna Ra Bichar, was interrogated by soldiers for nearly two hours on 13 November about the sources he used to write an article on the dismissal of one of the king's military secretaries. Basnet told the press after being released that he had also received telephone threats as a result of publishing the article.
Matrika Paudyal, a young journalist with the television station Nepal One (which broadcasts from the Indian capital of New Delhi), was detained by members of the security forces in the station's offices in Kathmandu on 19 December. He was released after being interrogated for several hours about his links with radio presenters who support the Maoist movement.
Janmadev Jaishi of the weekly Prakash was arrested by security forces on 28 December and interrogated about his contacts with Maoists in the district of Kalikot. He was freed after being held for 24 hours.
Journalists physically attacked
Bijaya Bisphot, editor and managing editor of the weekly Shram Bulletin, was attacked in his office in New Baneswar, near Kathmandu, on 27 March 2003 by intruders who took two computers and a fax machine. The police were unable to decide whether it was just a case of theft or if it was an attack linked to the newspaper's investigative reporting.
A dozen journalists including FNJ vice-president Gopal Budhathoki, Krishna Murari Bhandari and Rajesh K.C. of the daily Kantipur, Shiva Ganule, Dharmendra Jha, Nawaraj Chalise and Bhagawan Tripathi were manhandled by police outside the Birendra International Convention Centre on 29 March. The journalists had gone there for a press conference by Maoist leaders participating in negotiations with the authorities but the police stopped them entering the building without giving any reason.
Janak Nepal, a correspondent for the weekly Nepal Samachapatra, Namaskar Shah of the weekly Nepalipatra and freelance journalist Ved Prakash Timilsina were beaten by police in mid-April while covering a student demonstration in the southern town of Nepalgunj. Shah was slightly injured.
Rajesh Mishra, the news editor of the TV station Nepal One (which broadcasts from India), was knifed by unidentified assailants in Kathmandou on 22 July. He sustained injuries to the head, neck, eyes and a leg.
Unidentified assailants attacked Blast Daily editor Keshab Ghimire in the eastern town of Dharan on 19 October. His family suspected the security forces were behind the assault.
Members of the security forces jostled Umesh Oja of the state-owned daily Gorkhapatra at Kathmandu airport on 4 November and threw his press card to the ground.
Two individuals attacked Kailash Pradhan, the editor of the weekly Nepal Jagaran, on 7 December in Kathmandu, injuring him in the neck and an ear.
Birendra Gautam, a reporter with the daily Gorakhaptra in the eastern town of Panchthar, was hit by police 20 December while taking photos of homes unfit for habitation. His film was confiscated.
Rabin Thapaliya of the radio station HBC FM was beaten by police officer with a baton on 21 December while covering a student demonstration.
Security forces injured Dhruba Paudel, a cameraman with a journalists' organisation, Nepal Television cameraman Ganga Ram Bhandari, Himalaya Times reporter Suraj Kunwar, Anamolmadi Paudel of the daily Nepalsamacharpatra and Rishikesh Dahal of the daily Spacetime during students demonstrations in Kathmandu on 23 December
Shyam Shrestha, a cameraman with the TV station Kantipur, was hit by a policeman as he was filming a student who had just been beaten by police during a demonstration in Kathmandu on 30 December. The police also broke his video camera.
Rabin Thapalia, a contributor to the local daily Ruprekha in Bidur (in Nuwakot district, northwest of Kathmandu), received a letter from a Maoist commander on 10 January 2003 accusing him of "defaming the Maoist movement" in an editorial about the widows and orphans of the civil war and threatening him with reprisals. He received a second letter on 30 January that said he would be cut to pieces wherever he was if he did not apologise to the rebels within two weeks. Thapalia published an apology in Ruprekha but the threats continued. So he fled to Kathmandu and alerted the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, which tried to pass a message to the Maoists calling for the harassment to end. The rebels did not reply.
Thapiala said at a press conference in Kathmandu on 24 February that his family was still in danger and that the Maoists continued to target civilians despite the cease-fire. The FNJ filed a complaint about the case with the National Human Rights Commission. At a news conference three days later in Chaudhada (in Nuwakot district), Maoist leaders responded that they had never threatened journalists on account of their articles and never would. They also said Thapiala could safely return to the region.
A dozen policeman burst into the home of Kishor Shrestha, the editor of the far-left weekly Jana Astha, on the night of 8 January without a search warrant, hitting his mother and his wife and searching the house from top to bottom, Shrestha said. He accused the police of harassing him because his newspaper had recently reported cases of corruption, including bribes allegedly given to several police officers by Ashok Sharma, a film actor and producer of Indian origin, to obtain Nepalese nationality. Shrestha meanwhile still faced prosecution for "disturbing the peace" and "murder" because of the suicide of actress Shrisha Karmi after Jana Astha published nude photos of her.
The daily Nepal Samacharpatra reported in February that Deepak Bahadur Thapa, its correspondent in Mangelsen (in the western district of Achham), who is also the editor of the local weekly Sandesh, had been held by force in his village by the Maoists since November 2002 and was being forced to participate in rebel activities.
Journalist Leknath Bhandari of the weekly Sanghu reported on 27 March that he had received death threats by telephone because of one of his articles. He said he recognized the voice of Khagendra Dhakal, a civil servant working for the postal service.
The military began making threats against the editorial staff of the opposition weeklies Jana Astha and Budhabar on 21 May, when both newspapers ran stories about the secret sale of land belonging to former Princess Prechhya. The articles also alleged that the army's first secretary, Bibek Shaha, was involved in fraud. Several army officers went to the offices of Jana Astha and Budhabar and threatened staff members.
It was reported on 18 July that Bed Prakash Timalsena, a correspondent for the daily Kantipur in Mangalsen (in the far west of Nepal), was receiving threats from Maoists and members of the All Nepal Farmer Association (a peasant grouping) over his articles about the Maoists and their support in the local population. After being given 36 hours to leave the area, Timalsena fled to the southern town of Nepalgunj.
Kedar Katuwal, a journalist with the government news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS) and vice-president of the Nepalese press union in the southeastern Udayapur region, received death threats in mid-July from Maoists, who accused him of spying for the security forces.
Krishna Hari Ghimire, a crime reporter with the daily Annapurna Post, was threatened and harangued by a police officer who questioned his professionalism when he went to the Criminal Investigations Department in Kathmandu on 3 August to enquire about the still unsolved murder of Taja Khabar editor Amar Lama on 27 July.
Resham Birahi, an FNJ national representative and journalist who had criticised the "people's war", was threatened on 28 August in the southern district of Banke by rebels who told him: "The war taking place will be decisive. You should not write whatever you like about us."
Journalists in the southern city of Janakpur told Reporters Without Borders at the end of August that they often came under pressure from the Maoists, who insisted on more extensive reporting of their activities and did not hesitate to hamper the publication of reports they did not like.
Keshab Adhikari, an FNJ member in the district of Dhading (west of Kathmandu), received threats on 27 and 28 September from members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), who told him to stop putting out news about them. On 27 September, gunmen set fire to the home of Rajendrapratap Shah, the FNJ's president in Dhading and a journalist with the daily Kantipur.
Yadav Gautam, the editor of the weekly Naulo Janaubhar, fled the town of Ghorahi, in the western district Dang, and went to Kathmandu in September because the resumption of fighting made him fear for his safety. He had gone into exile in 2002 after his newspaper was ransacked, his wife was arrested and tortured, and all of his family was threatened.
P. B. Diyali, a journalist with the popular daily Blast Times in the eastern district of Sunsari, had to flee to Kathmandu in September after receiving threats. Three journalists in the town of Dhangadi in the western district de Kailali, Laxmi Ubhayay, Same Thapa and Chitra Chaudhary, were also forced by the security forces to flee to the capital because they were suspected of sympathising with the Maoists and had been threatened with arrest.
Man Bahadur Rana, the presenter of the programme "Serofero" on the state-owned Radio Nepal's regional service in the western district of Surkhet, was threatened with reprisals in November by a local Maoist leader if he did not stop his programme. The rebels accused him if giving false information about the situation in the region.
Gunmen went into the room of Dil Bahadur Chhantyal, the daily Kantipur's correspondent in Doti, on 11 December and machine-gunned its walls. Chhantyal was visiting neighbours at the time. The gunmen returned to his home three times looking for him. The police blamed Maoist rebels for the attack.
Harassment and obstruction
When the prime minister left for an official visit to Malaysia on 22 February, journalists and photographers who were not wearing traditional costume were barred from the airport salon. Despite protests from journalists condemning the government's conservatism, several ministers continued to impose a dress code.
Prabhakar Ghimire, a correspondent for the Kantipur press group in Chitwan (near Kathmandu), was barred by water resources minister Deepak Gyawali from a press conference about a water project on 31 March in the town of Devghat. The minister said he wanted nothing more to do with Kantipur journalists inasmuch as they were engaged in a sort of "journalistic mission" against him.
Murari Kumar Sharma and Uttam Hamal, two journalists who had been working for the state-owned Radio Nepal for eight years, were fired on 22 May for producing and broadcasting a report about a peaceful, anti-government protest movement led by five opposition parties. They were fired at the behest of information and communication minister Ramesh Nath Pandey, who requested their prompt removal in an official letter to Radio Nepal director Silendra Raj Sharma. The two also hold senior posts in the country's main journalists' organisation, the Nepalese Press Union (NPU). The government has often targeted NPU members in recent years as it has not appreciated NPU criticism of the failure to respect democratic freedoms in Nepal.
After the breakdown of the cease-fire in August, the publication or broadcasting of any news favourable to the rebels was again banned. The Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Ordinance (TADO), adopted after the declaration of a state of emergency in November 2001, empowered the security forces to combat "terrorist" activities and allowed the authorities to punish any journalist found to be supporting the "terrorists." This included "the publication or distribution of news about an individual or group implicated in terrorist or subversive activities." Police procedures were simplified to the extreme, the periods for which detainees could be held were extended, and there was provision for special courts to try "terrorists." In practice, the police and army assumed full powers in the districts hit by the war, acting like interior and justice ministers.
Security forces in the western district of Doti seized the dispatches of four journalists as they were about to send them to their editors in Kathmandu on 1 November. The reports concerned the death of four students and six Maoist rebels as a result of soldiers opening fire in a school in Doti. The reporters were Chhatra Saud of Spacetime, D.R. Panta of Kantipur, Baburam Shestha of the state-owned Radio Nepal and Umesh Bhatta of Farwest Time.
Maoist rebels expelled journalists Ishori Neupane of the daily Kathmandu Post and Kishor Jung Thapa of the daily Gorkapatra from the "liberated" zone of Khanibaas in the northern Gorkha region on 8 November on the pretext that they lacked the necessary special permits.