November 10, 2008

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”
Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
Singh Durbar
Kathmandu, Nepal
Email: info@opmcm.gov.np

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our dismay that one year after the murder of freelance journalist Birendra Shah, his killers have still not been brought to justice.

According to our information, on October 5, 2007, Birendra Shah was abducted by local Maoist cadres in the Bara district, south of Kathmandu. Following widespread protests by Nepali journalists over Shah’s disappearance, which were violently suppressed by the authorities, the CPN-Maoist party conducted an internal investigation into the kidnapping. On November 5, 2007, Maoist party leaders held a press conference at which they confirmed that Birendra Shah had been killed by their members on the day he went missing. The statement reportedly named a senior cadre, Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, and two associates as personally responsible for Shah’s abduction and murder. Shah’s body was found on November 8, 2007.

Shah, who worked for the publication Dristri Weekly as well as the privately owned Nepal FM Radio and Avenues TV , had gone with another journalist to investigate a report on sandalwood smuggling when he was abducted, and prior to his death published critical reports about local Maoists. He was apparently targeted because of personal disputes with Chaudhary, who reportedly fled to India to avoid arrest, but has now returned to the Bara district. The CPN-Maoist party distanced itself from the murder, claiming that the three cadres were expelled from the party, and were to face disciplinary action. However, no action has been taken to bring Shah’s killers to justice. Birendra Shah was the main breadwinner of his family, and his wife and two children are said to be suffering severe financial hardship as a result of his death.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that one year after the murder of Birendra Shah, those identified as being responsible for his death still have not been brought to justice, and that journalists and writers in Nepal continue to be targeted with apparent impunity, solely for their reporting. We therefore call on the authorities to take all necessary measures to protect journalists and to take immediate action to ensure all crimes against them are vigorously investigated, and those responsible brought to justice.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Hannah Pakula                                             
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

Cc: Dr. Suresh Chandra Chalise
Ambassador of Nepal to the United States
Embassy of Nepal
2131 Leroy Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 667-5534

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