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Nepal: Journalist abducted, authorities working for his release

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Both the CPN (Maoist) and the Government of Nepal have not taken initiatives to free Birendra Sah, a journalist who went missing after being abducted by Maoists cadres in October. Civil society organisations are ready to stage nationwide protest unless immediate steps will be taken to release him. 

(Bangkok, 1 November 2007) Birendra Sah, a Nepalese journalist, was abducted by an unidentified group on 5 October 2007 in Bara, central Nepal. His whereabouts are still unknown to this day, even if the names of suspects have been disclosed.

Cadres of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (Maoist) are responsible for the abduction of the journalist, according to a fact finding mission by the Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), a FORUM-ASIA member in Nepal. Three cadres of the CPN (Maoist) in Bara district area number 4 unit, identified as Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, Kundan Faujdar, and Ram Ekwal Sahani were allegedly involved in the abduction of Sah.

INSEC also called on the CPN (Maoist) to closely monitor and discipline its ranks, and be consistent with its declared support for press freedom.  

On 16 October 2007, the Human Rights and Social Justice Committee of the Parliament formed a panel to investigate the facts relating to Sah's abduction. The committee made their findings public on 23 October. The findings revealed that aside from the three cadres, the district deputy coordinator of the Young Communist League (YCL), Hareram Patel, was also involved in the case.

Bara district authorities of the Maoists and their Supreme Leader, Puspa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), have refused to take responsibility for the abductions. They, however, claim that two of those accused of being involved in the abduction, Faujdar and Chaudhary, had been dismissed from the party before the incident took place. Succumbing to national and international pressure, the CPN (Maoist) has formed a three-member committee on 28 October 2007 to investigate the allegations.

During a press conference on 29 October, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) threatened to stage a nationwide protest unless the whereabouts and condition of Sah were not made public in three days. The federation also demanded that stern action be taken against those involved in Sah’s abduction, pointing out that the lack of any cooperation from the Maoists to take legal action against the culprits is the “height of political duplicity”. FNJ also asked the National Human Rights Commission of Nepal to seek clarification from the top leadership of the Maoist party over the incident.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has claimed in its report published on 1 November that the Maoist cadres were involved in the abduction and subsequent disappearance of Sah. NHRC has categorically named the three Maoist cadres (Chaudhari, Faujdar, Sahani and Patel) over the abduction.
NHRC has recommended the Nepali government to take legal action immediately against those involved in the abduction of journalist Birendra Kumar Sah. The NHRC has also called upon the Maoists to disclose the whereabouts and the condition of Sah as soon as possible and extend all the necessary help in taking legal action against those guilty in the case.

Birendra Sah is a journalist based in Bara. He is affiliated with Nepal FM radio station, Dristri Weekly and Avenues TV. During the past few years, he wrote critical reports on Maoist actions, including one in a national daily about a gang rape by Maoists. This report allegedly incurred the ire of the CPN (Maoist) party. Since August 2007, Sah and his family have received threats to their safety and security, allegedly from members of the party.

Ram Dev Das, the editor of the magazine Terai Khabar Weekly, was riding on the same motorbike with Sah at the time of the abduction. He was also kidnapped with Sah in Tripura Bazaar in Kalaiya, in the district headquarters of Bara, but was released after a few hours being beaten. Ram Dev Das reported that their captors also beaten Sah severely, and threatened him to kill.