INDIANAPOLIS - Authorities in Nepal should respect their citizens' free-speech rights and not detain journalists who support or express views different from the government's, the Society of Professional Journalists said.
On Friday, SPJ sent a letter to King Gyanendra and the country's civil authorities expressing concern over the recent detention of the three journalists - Kantipur Editor Yubaraj Ghimie, director Binod Raj Gyawali and managing director Kailash Shirohiya
"We respectfully urge that these journalists be allowed to perform their duties without the threat of detention or arrest," wrote SPJ President Ray Marcano, an assistant managing editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. "If these journalists have been charged, we respectfully ask that these charges be dropped. And if, by the time this letter arrives, they have not been released by authorities, we respectfully ask that they be allowed to return to their jobs and families."
Media reports speculate that the Nepali journalists might have been detained because of an op-ed column by a senior underground leader of Nepal's revolutionary Maoist party, which has been waging a violent insurgency for five years.
John Hopkins, chairman of SPJ's International Journalism Committee, said that the only way Nepalis can be confident of their country's future is if they have a frank and open discussion of current events.
"More and more Asian peoples now expect this, and I believe the people of Nepal deserve the same opportunity to understand what is happening and to take part in public life," he said.
For a copy of the letter from SPJ to King Gyanendra, contact SPJ Communications Director Sarah A. Shrode at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 317/927-8000 ext. 217.