A newspaper editor has been arrested on Monday over a piece about pressure by lawmakers to illegally sell land of Harisiddhi Brick and Tile Factory.
Editor-in-Chief of Khojtalas weekly and khojtalasnews.com Raju Basnet has been arrested by the Metropolitan Police Range Lalitpur from his home in Thencho, Lalitpur Monday morning.
Drishti weekly had published a piece titled ‘Lawmakers put pressure to illegally sell land of Harisiddhi‘ about lawmakers including Pampha Bhusal of Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) putting pressure to illegally sell the land of Harisiddhi Brick and Tile Factory on September 4. Khojtalas had republished the piece changing the headline to ‘People’s representatives or land brokers?‘ two days later.
“The police came at eight in the morning and took him away in handcuffs,” Basnet’s wife Ramita told Setopati. “He is ill. We have been taking him to Megha Hospital for treatment. We requested the police to allow us to take him there but they said he can only be taken to Patan Hospital,” she added.
One Sushil Khanal–advocate of lawmaker Bhusal, according to Ramita–had moved a cyber crime case in the Kathmandu District Court against Khojtalas claiming the news defamed him.
Lawmaker Bhusal expressed ignorance about Basnet’s arrest but added she will file a libel against him. “He is the one responsible in carrying news reports in both Khojtalas and Drishti,” Bhusal told Setopati when reminded that the piece was originally published in Drishti.
Lalitpur Police SSP Rabindra Dhanuk confirmed Basnet’s arrest. “We have arrested him after the Kathmandu District Court ordered us to arrest him. He is currently in our custody,” SSP Dhanuk said. “He will remain in custody for the period granted by the court.”
The court has granted his custody for four days.
The Press Council Nepal, the official body for complaints against journalists and news, has said it has not been informed about Banset’s arrest. “The police earlier used to inform us in such matters but did not give us any information this time,” acting chairman of Press Council Nepal Kishor Shrestha told Setopati.
“The court has reportedly issued an arrest warrant. We are investigating whether the police have crossed its jurisdiction after the new law came into force,” he added.
Shambhu Shrestha, editor of Drishti weekly that published the original piece, has said the complainant did not consult Drishti about the case. “Khojtalas carried the piece of Drishti. The complainant should have complained against Drishti or gone to the Press Council Nepal if he had any problem with the content,” Shrestha told Setopati.
“Arresting a journalist and taking him in custody on such issue is abuse of cyber crime law. This is state terrorism,” Shrestha added.
He stated that editor Basnet erred in not taking permission before republishing the piece.