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Nepal Police Release Journalists

August 5, 2002

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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Two newspaper editors were detained for a day for publishing accusations of police corruption and alleged extortion in what a media rights group on Monday called part of a campaign of intimidation against the press.

The two were released Monday after Taranath Dahal, president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, met with top police officers.

Dahal said the arrests were aimed at intimidating journalists in Nepal, where nearly 100 have been detained without charges or arrested under an emergency decree that restricts freedom of the press.

Kishor Shrestha, editor of Janaastha weekly, and Bishnu Ghimire, editor of the Janaprahar daily, were picked up from their offices on Sunday, said Ram Chandra Khanal, a police officer.

Police accused Shrestha of libeling a criminal investigator with published accusations of bribery, while Ghimire was accused of demanding $128 from a restaurant owner whom the editor accused of supplying prostitutes.

Police have been given sweeping powers to arrest or detain anyone without warrants for 24 days since the government declared a state of emergency in November to fight a Maoist insurgency. Civil rights, including press freedoms, have also been suspended.

Neither of the editors could be reached for comment. They were not formally charged during their detention.

Their arrests drew fire from media groups in Nepal, where more than 20 journalists are still in custody.

``We have strongly condemned the arrests. The government is only trying to scare journalists,″ said Bishnu Nisthuri, also of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists. ``These journalists were arrested without any basis and because they have been writing against police and the government’s curtailing of the press freedom in the country.″

Shrestha has blamed police for the death of Krishna Sen, an editor of the weekly Janadisha newspaper, after he was arrested for allegedly writing articles in support of the rebels, who are fighting to topple Nepal’s constitutional monarchy.

The government has not confirmed Sen’s death but said that police were investigating.

Last month, the Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders said Sen had ``died under torture″ in a government detention center.

The government shut down the newspaper in November and arrested most of the journalists working there.

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