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Investigation into death of pro-Maoist journalist ordered following public outcry

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the violent death of Shankar Panthi, a correspondent of the local pro-Maoist "Naya Satta Daily" newspaper, in Sunawal, in the western district of Nawalparasi. His body, which bore the signs of injuries to several parts of his body, was found by police at a roadside near a petrol station on 14 September 2007.

"The behaviour of the police in this case has been controversial," the press freedom organisation said. "Although there were indications that he could have been beaten to death, the police hastily concluded that he was the victim of a road accident. Because of expressions of anger by the public and Maoists, an investigation was finally ordered two day's after the body's discovery. We call for a thorough and impartial investigation."

Aged 34 and known to be a Maoist supporter, Panthi was killed on his way back from covering the destruction of an office of the Young Communist League, a pro-Maoist organisation. The police initially claimed he was knocked off his bicycle by a vehicle and died on the spot. They later said he died on the way to hospital. A bus driver's arrest supported the road accident story.

Panthi's suspicious death has sparked a wave of outrage. The Association of Revolutionary Journalists does not rule out the possibility that he was murdered. The YCL has called for an autopsy by a team of three doctors to ensure impartiality. Residents of Sunawal blocked a road and closed a market on 15 September to put pressure on the local authorities.

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