Expedite investigation against Home Minister on holding dual passports and cooperative fraud

Published On: May 23, 2024 09:35 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

(A joint letter submitted by 31 editors to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal over the arrest of Chairman of Kantipur Media Group Kailash Sirohiya)

Right honourable prime minister

We editors working at major media outlets in Nepal want to draw your attention to a recent case of arrest from a media house:

1. Police arrested Kantipur Media Group Chairman Kailash Sirohiya from his office on Tuesday. All citizens should equally abide by the laws of the land and Sirohiya should be punished as per the law if he has done anything against it. Sirohiya himself has publicly said that he is ready for that.

2. The context and the allegations levelled against him and the modus operandi of his arrest have raised serious questions. We have taken the arrest from inside a media house as intended to create pressure and fear on the press. The government agencies have never interrogated Sirohiya about the allegations. Yesterday he was suddenly arrested over some technical issues of his citizenship certificate. This issue will now be resolved by the court.

3. Mr Prime Minister, we want to remind you—Rabi Lamichhane was not a Nepali citizen when he first became home minister in your Cabinet. Though he re-acquired Nepal’s citizenship following a court order, he was and is someone who can be punished for simultaneously holding passports of two countries.

4. We also want to make it clear why Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane has recently been attacking the media with animosity. The problem of cooperative fraud has become severe. Billions of rupees deposited by millions of Nepalis in cooperatives have been misappropriated, and they have not received their own deposits back. Media has continuously reported on around one billion rupees misappropriated by Rabi Lamichhane and Gorkha Media Network, where Lamichhane was one of the partners.

While addressing a Parliament meeting, he claimed that he was a victim of a ‘media trial’. However, investigations conducted at the municipal level and by Nepal Police’s Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) have established that he and the media company he managed embezzled cooperative funds. The home minister has prevented prosecution and the filing of charges against him by abusing power. We also want to draw the prime minister’s attention to this matter and remind you that it is your responsibility to ensure that the police investigation against Lamichhane moves ahead and builds an environment for prosecuting the case against him impartially.

5. We editors, who have been working in Nepali media for a long time, are well aware of press freedom, rule of law and our responsibilities. And we also want to make it clear that we won’t make any compromise when it comes to defending them and fulfilling our responsibilities.

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