INDEPENDENT NEWS

NEPAL: Personal Vendetta Against The Media

Published: Mon 27 May 2024 05:21 PM
First, they came for the media, and I did not speak out – because I was not a media.
Then they came for the civil society, and I did not speak out – because I was not a civil society.
Then they came for the lawyers and judges, and I did not speak out – because I was not a lawyer and a judge.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
- Martin Niemöller
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is extremely alarmed by the arrest of Kailash Sirohiya, Chairman of Kantipur Media Group. Mr. Sirohiya was arrested on 20 May 2024 over supposed irregularities in the details of his citizenship card. The AHRC believes that the supposed crime does not warrant an arrest. If there were indeed some discrepancies in the citizenship certificate details, the investigating agencies could have contacted Mr. Sirohiya to clarify things. But they did not.
Mr. Sirohiya had even promised to cooperate in the judicial investigation after an allegation against his citizenship card surfaced. But the police proceeded to detain him without any inquiry, and based solely on a complaint.
As per information received by the AHRC, the real reason for Sirohiya’s arrest was that the flagship brand under his group, Kantipur Daily, published series of reports on the misappropriation of funds from various cooperatives by the sitting Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane. Even in the past, Lamichhane had tried to discredit news on Kantipur, especially on his possession of dual passports, which is illegal under Nepalese law.
It has come to our notice that the person who filed the complaint against Mr. Sirohiya, based on which he was eventually arrested, is a cadre of the home minister’s party.
This is a staged drama of political vendetta against the media. Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane is misusing his political power gained overnight to silence the media which has been publishing a series of his wrongdoings and his active and conscious engagement in the embezzlement of millions of rupees from cooperatives where money has been saved by poor Nepalese, sometimes even by cutting their foods and other daily necessities for their and their children’s future.
The real reason is not the irregularities in the citizenship card of Mr. Sirohiya, but a message to the media to stop publishing against Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane. And, it is not going to stop here. It will continue and other media organizations going to be targeted for petty reasons to silence them. Politicians are consciously engaged in corruption, be it the Bhutanese refugee scam, gold smuggling case, Giri Bandhu Tea Estate scam, Maoist cantonment scam, or the embezzlement of billions of rupees through the cooperatives, only a few examples to be cited.
There is a political nexus to these corruptions, and the political leadership is whitewashing each other’s crimes by supporting each other, whitewashing each other, and sprinkling gold water on each other. There is a brotherhood among the political leadership when it comes to corruption. They support each other, and are trying to divert the focal issue by arresting and teaching lessons to the media, and it started with Mr. Sirohiya. It will continue if not protested and tackled collectively, nationally and internationally.
The AHRC is of the strong opinion that the international community and especially donor agencies to Nepal must act now, and immediately impose vetting against the key members of the current government, especially Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Otherwise, political impunity and corruption will remain unabated in Nepal.
They have made a mockery of the press, the fourth organ of the state, by undermining national and international calls to respect press freedom and the right to free speech.
The AHRC urges the government of Nepal to immediately stop its naked and lowly circus, and release Mr. Sirohiya. Our organization does not believe that the ongoing investigation against Mr. Sirohiya should stop, but it must fall under nationally and internationally practiced standard procedures and laws. Most importantly, Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane must resign, and there must be investigations into his engagement in the embezzlement of funds from the cooperatives and his earlier misuse of dual citizenships and passports. Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane is not above the law of the country, and there is no reason for him to enjoy any special treatment. Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane must face the law and prove himself not guilty, if at all.
Few reading links on these issues.The joint letter of 31 editors of the mainstream press to the prime minister of Nepal, asking for a fair investigation into Sirohiya and continuation of the incomplete investigation on home minister Lamichhane concerning his illegal use of dual passports and his misappropriation of cooperative funds: https://kathmandupost.com/national/2024/05/22/sirohiya-arrested-to-build-pressure-on-press-editorsThe Kathmandu Post editorial on the incident, which argues why this is a political vendetta against KMG: https://kathmandupost.com/editorial/2024/05/21/vendetta-against-mediaThe news report that gives the context of Sirohiya’s arrest, as well as how the largest party in the parliament, Nepali Congress, is firmly against the arrest: https://kathmandupost.com/national/2024/05/22/leaders-across-political-spectrum-condemn-sirohiya-s-arrestThe home minister-backed news website, which had originally published a sting video about KMG chairman ‘fixing’ Supreme Court judges: https://sidhakura.com/An editorial on how Lamichhane bends truth: https://theannapurnaexpress.com/story/38174/The Dhanusha court’s justification for arresting Kailash Sirohiya (in Nepali, this deals with technical issues like mistaken citizenship numbers, lack of files on his citizenship details, etc): https://nepalkhabar.com/society/201458-2024-5-21-22-59-36Another news report on how the home minister is pursuing the case out of vengeance: https://nepalitimes.com/news/nepals-home-minister-vs-the-media

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