On 3 May, Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the release of Kanak Mani Dixit – co-publisher of MDIF client Himalmedia, and a columnist for several international outlets – who had been detained for 10 days.
In what appeared to be an attempt to silence a critical journalist, police acting on behalf of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had arrested Kanak at his home in Lalitpur on 22 April. The arrest prompted a storm of protest from press freedom organizations, journalists and civil rights defenders.
The CIAA is investigating claims that Kanak, who is also Chairman of transportation company Sajha Yatayar and an active human rights activist, has amassed property illegally while abusing public authority. Kanak denies any wrongdoing, claiming that the arrest was fabricated, arbitrary and a contempt of court. He alleges that the investigation is the result of a personal vendetta by Commission Chief Lokman Singh Karki, whose appointment as CIAA head Kanak criticized publicly in his columns.
The Supreme Court found that Kanak’s detention – much of which he served in hospital, where he received treatment for a variety of ailments – was illegal as the CIAA had not given a reason why he should have been detained.
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers protested the arrest in a letter to Prime Minister of Nepal Khadga Prasad Oli. The Committee to Protect Journalists also called on the Nepalese authorities to release Mr Dixit, and The Federation of Nepalese Journalists described it as a “vengeful act“.
More than 60 leading media figures, activists and scholars from across the world signed a public letter demanding Mr Dixit’s release.