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Writer under threat; fears for safety

(WiPC/IFEX) - 20 March 2012 - PEN International is seriously concerned for the safety of writer and journalist Kanak Mani Dixit, who is among three leading figures to be facing implicit death threats after being declared 'People's Enemies' by Nepal's ruling Maoist party. PEN International demands that all three men be given immediate protection. PEN is dismayed that journalists and writers continue to be targeted with apparent impunity in Nepal, and it reminds the Nepali authorities of their obligations to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nepal is a signatory.

According to PEN's information, senior journalist and popular children's writer Kanak Mani Dixit is amongst three leading figures to have been declared 'people's enemies' in an article published in the 30 January 2012 edition of the monthly magazine "Lalrakshak" (Red Guards), the mouthpiece of the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-Maoist). Also targeted are Kul Chandra Gautam, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general and a longstanding deputy executive director of the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, and human rights activist Subodh Raj Pyakurel, executive director of Informal Services Sector (INSEC), the largest non-governmental human rights organisation in Nepal. All three men are believed to be threatened for their outspoken criticism of the Chairman of the UCPN-Maoist, Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', in particular their calls for him and his party to renounce the use of violence.

In a letter to the Nepali Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, the three men state that the "Lalrakshak" article is "an incitement to violence, and part of an all-out attack that is underway against a broad range of civil society actors from the districts in the capital, including journalists, lawyers and rights activists."

Kanak Mani Dixit is editor of the "Himal Southasian" regional magazine and publisher of the Nepali-language "Himal Khabarpatrika" news magazine. He is also the author of a number of children's books.


BACKGROUND:

After a ten-year long insurgency, a peace agreement was reached by the government of Nepal and the CPN-Maoist party in November 2006, in which both sides agreed to respect press freedom. However, during 2007 this fragile peace process deteriorated, tension between the army and the Maoists grew and reports of attacks on journalists and media outlets began to escalate. The Maoists withdrew from the interim government in September 2007, demanding abolition of the monarchy. Parliament agreed to this condition in December that year, and the rebels rejoined the government. The Maoists emerged as the largest party in parliament following elections in April 2008, and the monarchy was abolished a month later. A new Maoist-dominated government finally took office in August 2008, but quickly disintegrated in May 2009. Successive leaders have failed to secure cross-coalition support to implement the peace agreement or draft a constitution to address longstanding political, social, ethnic, and economic inequalities. Political instability continues, and journalists and writers continue to be targeted with apparent impunity.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals:
* Expressing serious concern for the safety of writer Kanak Mani Dixit, Kul Chandra Gautam and human rights activist Subodh Raj Pyakurel, and calling on the Nepali authorities to provide them with effective protection immediately;
* Urging the authorities to make clear that labelling people as "people's enemies" is inappropriate and an incitement to attack;
* Calling on the authorities to take all necessary measures to protect writers, journalists and human rights activists in Nepal, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nepal is a signatory.

Appeals to:

Prime Minister
Rt Honorable Dr Babu Ram Bhattarai
Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
Singh Durbar
Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977-1-4211000
P.O. Box: 23312
Email: [email protected]

Home Minister
Bijay Kumar Gachhadar
Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
Singh Durbar
Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977-1-4211000
P.O. Box: 23312
Email: [email protected]

If possible please send appeals via the diplomatic representative for Nepal in your country.

**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 30 April 2012**

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