KATHMANDU, Jan 17: The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and other journalist bodies have intensified their protests against the government for instructing local authorities to stop a probe into the cold-blooded murder of Dailekh-based journalist Dekendra Thapa.
But the government and Maoist leaders have argued that the the issue should be taken up only after a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is formed.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has been saying repeatedly at public functions that conflict-era cases such as Dekendra´s murder cannot be taken up until the TRC is formed. He has argued that taking up such cases would be a violation of the Comprehensive Peace Accord and such a move would be against the entire peace process. Though Thapa was killed eight years ago, the case was swept under the carpet under the pretext of its being related to the conflict period.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mukti Pradhan, who is the prime minister´s legal advisor, issued a diktat to the district attorney in Dailekh to stop the probe into the Dekendra case.
With the prime minister´s remarks and the attorney general´s diktat, journalist bodies were infuriated and they intensified their nationwide protests. But the protest has been challenged by the government and sections of society close to the Maoists, arguing that if the authorities are to revive the Dekendra case, the same bodies must be ready to raise the cases of murder of pro-Maoist journalists as well.
Finding local journalists in Dailekh in a terror-stricken state, a four-member mission led by FNJ Chairman Shiva Gaule visited the district.
The fact-finding mission stated that Dailekh-based journalists have been working under immense psychological pressure after the prime minister and the attorney general instructed prosecutors in the district to halt legal proceedings in the Dekendra case.
The agitating journalists, however, were emboldened when the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the Office of Attorney General not to obstruct the ongoing investigations into Thapa´s murder.
(Photo: Keshab Thoker)
Acting on a writ petition filed by Advocate Govinda Sharma Bandi, a single bench of Justice Kalyan Sherstha issued an interim order against the Office of Attorney General, Dailekh District Attorney´s Office and the District Police Office. The apex court also issued a show cause notice to the Office of Attorney General.
"The basis stated in the letter sent to the District Police Office and District Attorney´s Office instructing them not to proceed with the investigations, is against the constitution, the laws and the fundamental principles of criminal justice; therefore, do not implement the letter and do not create hurdles in the investigations directly or indirectly," states the SC order.
The agitating media persons, human rights activists and civil society members have applauded the apex court´s decision, saying that the judiciary´s verdict would help end impunity in the country.
Even as journalists across the country intensified their protests against the government´s intervention in the Dekendra probe, the issue took a new turn when pro-Maoist journalists close to the Association of Revolutionary Journalists staged protests in various parts of the country on Tuesday demanding stern action against those involved in killing journalists including Krishna Sen Ichhuk.
Coordinator of the Association Govinda Acharya warned of withdrawing from the FNJ for not demanding investigations into the killing of other journalists including Ichhuk.
Even FNJ General Secretary Om Sharma alleged that the FNJ protest has been influenced by I/NGOs under the pretext of human rights and press freedom.
But there is a strong argument as well that there is no point mixing up the incidents of killings of journalists and of politicians and putting them in the same bracket.
"People like my dad and Krishna Sen were journalists and politicians both. We must admit that they were part of the conflict. As I choose only journalism as my legacy, I think the killers of journalists like Dekendra must be punished right away. Because he was not part of the conflict. I am ready to wait until the TRC for the probing of my dad´s murder. I need justice too. I am just wondering why NFJ doesn´t understand this simple fact..." journalist Girish Giri posted on his face book status last week.
Giri´s father was killed by the Maoists nine years ago. He believes that though his father was a journalist for decades the reason behind his killing was political.
"My father was mayor of Birgunj at the time and he was killed for political reasons," he explained. "So is the case of Krishna Sen Icchuk, who was a central committee member of the erstwhile rebel Maoist party."