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Journalist abducted, whereabouts unknown

(FNJ/IFEX) - Birendra Shah, a Bara-based journalist affiliated with Nepal FM, "Dristri Weekly" and Avenues TV, was abducted by an unidentified group on 5 October 2007 from the Pipara Bazaar in Kalaiya, the district headquarters of Bara, in central Nepal. His whereabouts are still unknown.

Ram Dev Das, a journalist who was riding with Shah on the same motorbike at the time of the abduction, told FNJ's Bara chapter that Maoists had taken away Shah. But the Maoist district in-charge denied the abduction. Das was reportedly beaten up by his abductors before being released.

A source told an FNJ mission team visiting Bara that the leaders of the district organisation of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, the Maoist-aligned Tharuwan Mukti Morcha, the Maoist Jilla Janasarkar (District Authority), the Maoist-aligned Young Communist League, former Maoist district president Kundan Faujdar and Maoist official Lal Bahadur Chaudhary are all directly involved in the abduction.

Gagan Bista, a member of FNJ's mission team, said that the abductors have openly threatened Shah's life. Maoists have been threatening repeatedly to take Shah's life since August, family members of the journalist told the mission team.

Shah has written several reports critical of Maoist actions. A few years back, he disseminated news about a gang rape by Maoists in a national daily. Since then, he has received repeated threats from the party, Bista said. "We saw that Maoists still carry guns with them and journalists are being threatened for writing news against them," added Bista.

However, when the mission team talked to the Maoist district authorities, they refused to take responsibility. They said that Faujdar and Chaudhary, those allegedly involved in the abduction, have already been ousted from the party. But locals told the mission team that the two were present as main guests at an event organised by Maoists only a few days earlier.

The FNJ mission team left for Kalaiya, Bara, on 7 October. The team comprises FNJ Central Committee member Ramesh Bista, Gagan Bista, General Secretary of Press Chautari and Press Union treasurer Junarbabu Basnet.

FNJ is seriously concerned about the abducted journalist, Birendra Shah. FNJ says that the Maoists cannot walk away from the situation. They should take responsibility for the abduction and release the journalist immediately. The party should also take strong action against those involved. FNJ also condemns the continued indifference of the government, four days after the journalist's abduction. FNJ urges the government to take the necessary actions immediately to ensure the journalist's release. FNJ also asks the National Human Rights Commission and other human rights organisations to show their concern over the incident.

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