Press Statement

Nepal: Media house chair arrested

23 May, 2024

Chairperson and publisher of the Kantipur Media Group Kailash Sirohiya was arrested on May 21, nominally over issues with his citizenship documents, with many in Nepal’s media community identifying the arrest as related to coverage of Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates, the Nepal Press Union (NPU), and the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), in condemn the arrest, and urge authorities to uphold press freedom.

On the evening of May 21, police entered the Kathmandu offices of the Kantipur Media Group, and arrested its Chairman, Kailash Sirohiya. The arrest came following the issuing of an arrest warrant earlier that day by the Dhanusha District Court, after a case was filed with Dhanusha police claiming Sirohiya’s citizenship card may hold the same identifying number as another individual’s.

Sirohiya is currently under judicial custody in Dhanusha in the southern Madhesh province, with his detention extended by Judge Churaman Khadka for a further three days on May 22. Sirohiya has denied all claims and has claimed the arrest was an “act of vengeance” for Kantipur’s reporting on Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane. In a statement, the FNJ allege the arrest’s timing confirmed it as vindictive in nature.

The Chairmen’s arrest comes following a series of reports detailing allegations that Lamichhane had misappropriated millions of Nepali Rupees in savings at a cooperative fund while he was the managing director of the Gorkha Media Network.

Media unions, press freedom advocates, and journalist’s organisations have condemned the arrest, and called for Sirohiya’s immediate release. On May 23, 31 editors of leading publications wrote to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, raising their concerns over the manner and timing of his arrest, and stating their commitments to fighting for press freedom. Supporters also held a protest outside the Dhanusha District Police Office.

The NPU said: “The NPU strongly condemns the arrest of Kantipur Chairman Sirohiya from the working room by police on the instructions of Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane, following the continuous investigative news was published in the Kantipur daily about cooperative fraud. Although police say that the arrest was made on due to a dual citizenship issue, the Union assume that Sirohiya was arrested on the instructions of Mr. Lamichhane, with the intention of suppressing the freedoms of the press and expression by abusing his power and authority.”

The FNJ said: “Although it has always stood by the investigation conducted according to the law, the Federation of Journalists does not accept the abuse of state power with the intention of restricting the freedom of press and expression. The Federation is with the editorial leadership of Kantipur to move forward without being influenced by this incident and without being distracted from the work of publishing truthful news. Respecting the freedom of the press and expression, the Federation strongly demands the government to comply with the guarantee of full freedom of the press ensured by the Constitution of Nepal.”

The IFJ said: “The arrest of Kailash Sirohiya is deeply concerning, especially considering the ongoing investigative work focused on allegations of misconduct by the Home Minister. Investigations against journalists and media personnel cannot be informed by personal or political reasons, and authorities must ensure that Nepal’s commitment to press freedom are upheld.”

Written By

IFJ Asia-Pacific IFJ Asia-Pacific

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
Find the IFJ on Facebook: