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Nepal government to compensate family of slain journalist


Kathmandu : Stung by mounting criticism for failing to punish the alleged Maoist killers of a journalist more than a month after the incident, the Nepal government said it would pay compensation to his family as well as initiate a search for another scribe missing for over four months.

However, protesting journalists, whose sustained campaign finally wrested some help for slain journalist Birendra Shah’s distressed family, said their demonstrations would continue till the government punished the Maoist leaders involved in the killing.

The protests continued Thursday in front of Singh Durbar, the heart of Nepal’s government where the prime minister’s office, parliament and key ministries are located, with police trying to disperse the demonstrators by arresting about two dozen journalists.

On Wednesday, Koirala held a cabinet meeting that announced compensation of Nepali Rs.1 million for Shah’s wife Umrawati, who had been camping in Kathmandu with her two minor children seeking information about her missing husband.

Shah, a broadcast journalist working for a private television and radio station, was marched off at gunpoint from Bara district in Nepal’s troubled Terai plains last month.

Though eyewitnesses identified the masked abductors as Maoists, including district leader Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, police failed to arrest the men for fear of angering the rebels.

For almost a month, the Maoist leadership denied having any hand in Shah’s disappearance but finally conceded its men were involved after journalists began a sustained campaign nationwide.

However, the guerrillas have washed their hands off the murder, saying Chaudhary killed Shah due to personal enmity.

Acting on information given by the Maoists, police discovered Shah’s body from a forest in Bara. He had been shot dead the day he was abducted.

The cabinet meeting also ordered the home ministry to launch a search for another journalist missing for over four months.

Prakash Singh Thakuri has been missing from Mahendranagar town in remote Kanchanpur district of western Nepal.

His family alleges members of the powerful Young Communist League (YCL) — the dreaded youth wing of the Maoists – marched Thakuri off.

However, the YCL has been denying any involvement in an echo of the Shah murder.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists, whose campaign forced the Maoists to admit Shah’s murder, said it was sending a team to Mahendranagar to probe Thakuri’s disappearance.

Journalists have also been calling for Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula’s resignation, citing his failure to bring any Maoist offender to justice.

Shah’s killers are said to have escaped to India. However, though the Maoist leadership is apparently in touch with them, the government has failed to find their whereabouts and bring them to justice.