New York June 28, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter of inquiry today to Nepalese prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba urgently requesting information about the status of Krishna Sen, editor of the daily Janadisha and former editor of Janadesh, both publications considered supportive of the banned Maoist rebel movement.
The government has failed to comment on widely circulated media reports that Sen, who was arrested on May 20, may have been killed while in custody. The government had accused Sen of being among the senior leaders of the Maoist movement and of commanding rebel operations in Kathmandu but has not presented its case against him in court.
Since the government declared a state of emergency on November 26, 2001, in response to intensified fighting by the country's Maoist rebels, press freedom guarantees have been suspended and more than 100 journalists have been detained.
During a recent visit to Nepal, CPJ representatives met with Prime Minister Deuba and raised several cases of journalists arrested and tortured in custody. CPJ emphasized that in all cases, including those in which journalists are accused of direct involvement in rebel activities, authorities should present charges before an open court, grant due process rights, and never use torture.
The prime minister pledged to look into cases where abuses have occurred and said that, "We have instructed the army and the police not to violate human rights."
CPJ is also worried about the security of Kishor Shrestha, editor of Jana Aastha. Since his newspaper first reported Sen's alleged killing, Shrestha has feared arrest, according to colleagues. Newspaper employees confirmed that a man who was patrolling the area in front of their offices today was a plainclothes police officer.
In the letter to Prime Minister Deuba, CPJ executive director Ann Cooper wrote, "We call on you to make public the whereabouts of Krishna Sen, and we also urge you to do everything within your power to ensure that Shrestha and all other Nepalese journalists do not face harassment for fulfilling their professional duties."