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Government fails to prosecute journalists' murderers

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - 11 November 2010 - In what appears to be a major threat to the Nepali media sector, the Nepal government has yet to punish the murderers of journalists Dekendra Thapa and Birendra Shah. Even though the slain journalists' family members have already identified the perpetrators, the administration has turned a blind eye on the cases and the prime suspects have been moving freely in their respective districts.

Thapa's family has complained that police have failed to take any initiative to investigate his killing even though they lodged a First Information Report (FIR) naming several persons as guilty some two years ago.

Talking to the media in Surkhet on 8 November 2010, the slain journalist's widow, Laxmi Thapa, said that police were reluctant to investigate the killing. "Police should investigate the murder since we have already registered a written complaint with the names of the guilty parties. But, they are very reluctant to do so," she said.

Laxmi Thapa claimed that she had registered a complaint saying Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN, Maoist) activists, including Bam Bahadur Khadka, were involved in the killing.

Maoist activists abducted Thapa, the then district correspondent of Radio Nepal, from Dwar VDC of Dailekh district on 26 June 2004 and murdered him on 11 August.

Similarly, Shah's killers have yet to be brought to book three years after he was brutally murdered by Maoist cadres.

Shah was abducted from Umjan Pipra, Bara district on 5 October 2007; his body was found buried at Tagiyabasti, in the same district, over a month later, on 9 November 2007. Maoist cadres Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, Kundan Foujdar and Hare Ram Patel were accused of the murder but so far only Ram Iqbal Sahani has been arrested in connection with the case.

Freedom Forum voices serious concern over the culture of impunity that has frequently hindered the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and the press. "This is not merely an issue that affects the media sector but the whole nation," says Freedom Forum Chairperson Taranath Dahal, adding "these kinds of incidents curtail media freedom and put journalists under psychological pressure resulting in self-censorship."

Freedom Forum demands concrete action against the culprits at the earliest. "The State should not abstain from bringing the press freedom predators to justice - (it must) end the growing culture of impunity and dispense justice for the bereaved families of the journalists who lost their lives for the cause of press freedom," adds Dahal.

"The nature of both incidents has created some doubt as to whether the culprits have been protected by the political leadership since the prime accused are connected with the political party in the district."

Freedom Forum believes that the rule of law and media freedom cannot prevail unless the government brings the guilty of such brutal incidents to book.

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    (FNJ/IFEX) - Birendra Shah, a Bara-based journalist affiliated with Nepal FM, "Dristri Weekly" and Avenues TV, was abducted by an unidentified group on 5 October 2007 from the Pipara Bazaar in Kalaiya, the district headquarters of Bara, in central Nepal. His whereabouts are still unknown.

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