Nepal journalist slain for seeking justice for murdered kin? (Lead)

January 13th, 2009 - 8:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Jan 13 (IANS) Nepali journalist Uma Singh, hacked to death at her residence Sunday night, might have been killed because she was seeking justice for her slain father and elder brother.About two years ago, Singh’s father Ranjit Singh and brother Sanjay were abducted from Maheshpur village in trouble-prone Terai district Siraha, allegedly by Maoists. Their bodies were found two days later.

Uma Singh, only 22 at that time, defied threats and warnings to file a complaint with the police, naming the people suspected of being behind the killings. But the police allegedly did not pay heed to her complaint.

She was also asked to stay at home like most women in the Terai and quit her job as a journalist.

Determined to get both justice for her slain kin and pursue her profession, the gutsy Singh relocated to Janakpur town in Dhanusha district.

Working as an anchor and reporter for a private radio station, Radio Today, and the Janakpur Today daily, the 24-year-old was the sole bread earner for her family, which included her elderly mother, widowed sister-in-law and three small nephews.

While working, she was also determined to further her own career and had enrolled for college education.

In her reporting, she focused on the evils plaguing the southern plains, like the inferior status of women, growing demand for dowry during marriages and violence against women.

On Sunday, while she was cooking dinner for her family, a group of people attacked her with knives, dragged her out in the courtyard and hacked at her mercilessly, finally leaving her there to die.

Her neighbours heard her cries for help but none ventured to go to her aid. One of them later told the media that the assailants had said: “This is for writing so much.”

The murder has sent shock waves across Nepal, where so far 23 journalists have been killed. Singh was the first woman journalist to be murdered.

On the same day, another woman journalist in the same town also received death threats. Manika Jha, who works for the Kantipur daily, was reportedly warned that it would be her turn next.

Journalists began protests nationwide Monday, with the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) calling a shutdown in Janakpur.

Tuesday was observed as a day of mourning for journalists nationwide. Nepal journalists plan to hold a demonstration Jan 15 to urge the government to provide them protection.

Last year alone, under the Maoist government, three journalists were killed and one kidnapped.

While the police have so far not identified any motive for the killing, the FNJ has sent a team to the town to investigate the killing.

Though Nepal’s Maoist guerrillas, who fought a 10-year savage war, laid down arms three years ago and returned to mainstream politics, peace still remains elusive in the Himalayan republic.

Killings have become rampant fuelled by the culture of impunity encouraged by the earlier governments during the insurgency and now under the Prachanda government.

The Terai has become the new hotspot of Nepal with killings, abductions and extortion taking place daily.

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