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Missing journalist resurfaces, after fleeing threats over corruption article

IPI condemns state-sanctioned pressure that forced journalist to 'disappear'

(IPI/IFEX) - 28 July 2009, Vienna - Shiva Oli, a Nepali journalist reported missing by his wife after he left his home in the Doti district in the far western region of Nepal on 25 July, was located on Tuesday morning when he contacted the police, the regional coordinator for the Far Western Region of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, Manmohan Swar, told the International Press Institute (IPI) on Tuesday. The journalist said that he had fled following intimidation related to a story about corruption that he wrote on 16 July.

According to a missing person's report filed by the journalist's wife, Shiva Oli was visited at his home in Goganpani by three men. The men claimed that they visited the journalist to discuss a 16 July story about corruption. The article reportedly discussed financial irregularities related to a 150 million rupee, or 1.36 million Euro, drinking-water project.

Federation of Nepali Journalists Regional Coordinator Swar told IPI that following the publication of the article in various local and state-wide newspapers the journalist had come under pressure to retract the story. When he failed to do so, the three men went to his house at 11.30 pm on 25 July and asked him to accompany him to a remote location in the town. Fearful for his safety, Shiva Oli went into hiding. He did not make any effort to contact his family or friends until yesterday evening, when he called the police and presented himself at the local council.

"This is not the first such incident in the Far Western Region," said Swar. "One journalist was killed here last year, and another has been missing for over two years. Journalists routinely face harassment and intimidation in the course of their work, from political factions who are trying to use the press for their own ends. This incident is one more link in this chain."

Swar also told IPI that despite being aware that Shiva Oli had been threatened in the past, the police contacted the persons who had visited Oli's house on the night of his disappearance with the information that he had been found, and attempted to "settle" the dispute.

IPI has in the past voiced concern at the climate of impunity that surrounds acts of aggression and harassment against journalists in Nepal. In June 2008, an International Press Institute mission to the Nepali capital Katmandu drew attention to the problem. In meetings with IPI delegates, representatives of Nepal's government emphasized their commitment to fostering media freedom.

"Shiva Oli was performing an invaluable public duty by bringing the truth to the Nepalese people, and governments that support human rights and democracy cannot afford to tolerate intimidation and harassment of journalists in the course of their work," said David Dadge, director of IPI. "Nepal's ongoing culture of impunity casts serious doubt on the Nepali government's stated aim of fostering the freedom of the press."

Figures paint a bleak picture of press freedom in Nepal over recent years.

According to IPI's Death Watch count, six journalists have been murdered in Nepal since 2005.

This year, on 25 July, another journalist, Bhusan Yadav, of Nepal television, was reportedly harassed in the course of his work. Yadav, who was reporting on alleged vandalism of petrol tankers in the Birgunj region of Nepal, was threatened, and his equipment and photographs were destroyed.

On 5 July, two journalists, Lawadev Dungana, a reporter with Kantipur, Nepal's largest daily newspaper, and Kumar Ojha, editor of Bartaman Samay, were reportedly forced to flee after they were threatened and abused by members of the local Maoist party. Dungana had filed a story that alleged that members of the party were involved in financial irregularities.

Earlier in the year, on 11 January, well-known journalist Uma Singh was hacked to death in the southern city of Janakpur. Her killers remain at large.

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