03/06/2010, 00.00
NEPAL
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Murders and death threats to silence Nepali media

by Kalpit Parajuli
The Nepali government acknowledges the involvement of some police officers in the murder of Jamin Shah, killed on 7 February, and Arun Singhaniaya, gunned down on 1 March. Both were important figures in Nepal’s media world. In protest, journalists send the prime minister the gift of a pen and a gun to symbolise the violence they have to endure.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Attacks against journalists and media workers continue in Nepal. On 1 March in Janakpur, unknown gunmen shot dead Arun Singhaniya, owner of Express Today. His death follows that of Jamin Shah, owner of Channel Nepal TV station, who was assassinated on 7 February as he was making his away by car through one of Kathmandu’s busiest roads. A number of investigative journalists have also received death threats. Recently, the government acknowledged that the murders are the work of a group of police and former military officers linked to organised crime, concerned about continued investigations into collusion between the police and the underworld.

“The government must be sensitive to such threats and go after the culprit,” said Dharmendra Jha, chairman of Nepal Press Council. “If the government can’t do this, we will have to defend ourselves.”

Brij Kumar Yadav, BBC Nepali Service regional correspondent and editor of Janakpur Today, said that he received death threats after publishing a series of article about Singhaniya’s murder. Another 11 journalists said they received threatening phone calls.

In recent days, journalists took to the streets in a number of cities to protest and demand better security. In Jhapa District (eastern Nepal), representatives of the local press gave Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal a pen and a gun to symbolise the violence they have to endure.

The international community has also raised its voice. “The government must give a strong message that there will be no impunity for attacks against freedom of expression and independent media,” said Jean Romnicianu, deputy chief of mission at French Embassy. 

Home Affairs Minister Bhin Rawal said that whoever is behind these criminal acts would be punished. “It is a serious security issue when security personnel are involved in criminal activities.”

According to a report by the Nepal Police, three deputy superintendents of police, Surendra Bahdur Singh, Ganesh Chanda and Arjun Chand, planned Jamin Shah’s murder.

The report also refers to other people tied to law enforcement, including a retired police officer.

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