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Journalist and women's rights activist brutally murdered

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced shock and horror at the brutal murder of journalist and human rights activist Uma Singh, 26, a correspondent for the "Janakpur Today" daily and Radio Today FM.

Singh was attacked by a gang of around 15 men on 11 January 2009 after she returned from work. The men burst into the room she rented in Janakpur, some 240 km south-east of the capital, and battered her repeatedly with sharp objects in front of other tenants. She died of her injuries shortly before midnight while being driven to the capital.

"Our first thoughts are with her family and friends. We ask the authorities to react quickly and to do their utmost to protect journalists in Nepal and to quickly arrest this group of killers. This kind of appalling murder must not go unpunished if the Nepalese press is to go about its work freely," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists also condemned the attack and is sending a team to the spot to investigate the killing. Dharmendra Jha, president of the organisation and a former professor of Singh, said he was very shocked by what had happened. "She was my pupil and I encouraged her to go in for committed journalism," he told satellite television CNN.

Police have so far not identified any motive for the killing. Some of Uma Singh's articles made waves in the region, particularly those in which she criticised the dowry system, a widespread tradition in Nepal obliging the family of a bride to pay a significant sum of money and to give land to the husband before the marriage.

Human Rights Watch said that some of the attackers could be linked to the Communist Party of Nepal, the largest party in the ruling coalition, headed by Pushpa Kamal Dahal or "Prachanda", who led a Maoist rebellion for a decade before becoming prime minister.

Singh's murder is the latest in a long list of arrests and murders of journalists in Nepal in recent months. Three journalists were killed last year and one was kidnapped. Nepalese journalists plan to hold a demonstration on 15 January to urge the government to provide them with protection.

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