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Khagendra Shrestha, editor and publisher of the Nepalese newspaper "Dharan Today," has died following a shooting by unidentified gunmen in eastern Nepal, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Shrestha, 45, died on 1 April 2005, two weeks after armed men entered his office in Dharan and shot him in the head. Nepalese security forces have accused Maoist rebels of the murder but the allegations have not been confirmed.

CPJ is investigating whether Shrestha was killed because of his work as a journalist.

Shrestha's death comes amidst what Human Rights Watch is calling a "continuing human rights crisis" in Nepal. More than 600 human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, students and political activists remain detained for peaceful and legitimate activities since a state of emergency was declared by King Gyanendra on 1 February. Human Rights Watch says a climate of intimidation is preventing human rights monitors from conducting investigations into alleged attacks.

Following a fact-finding mission to the country earlier this month, CPJ said the government crackdown is the most devastating blow to the country's vibrant private media since democracy began in Nepal in 1990.

According to a recent report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), censorship and attacks on journalists have been worsening. Eleven journalists have been detained for more than 48 hours since the coup, with three still being held and about 100 in hiding or in exile. Roughly half of all publications in Nepal have ceased printing, particularly outside the Kathmandu valley. And hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs, with many more at risk.

In response to pressure from the United States and India, King Gyanendra agreed on 11 April to allow the UN into the country to investigate and monitor human rights violations. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has signed an agreement with the government that will allow UN observers to conduct investigations and submit reports to the High Commissioner, the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General's office. The UN says the agreement will be implemented immediately.

Visit these links:

- RSF:
- Human Rights Watch:
- CPJ:
- IFJ Report:
- Index on Censorship:
- UN High Commissioner on Human Rights:
- Nepalese Bloggers Defy Clampdown:
(Image courtesy of IFJ)

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