Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gautam appeals RSF for Acharya's release

To Mr. Vincent Brossel
Reporters Sans Frontiers
Rue Viviene, Paris

Subject: Campaign against the arrest and prison sentence by the Government of Bhutan against a journalist Mr. Shanti Ram Acharya

Dear Sir,
I would like to apprise the International Secretariat of the Reporters Sans Frontiers that the Royal Government of Bhutan has imprisoned a journalist named Shanti Ram Acharya for even and half years violating the freedoms of press and rights of the journalist. Just like any other journalist Mr. Shanti Ram Acharya was doing the job of exposing the news and events that the Bhutanese state media rarely covers. He was simply doing his duty of a journalist, that the government has assumed as a ‘traitor’ simply because he was working for the media operated in exile- The Bhutan Reporter, a monthly news bulletin. The arrest and imprisonment is tenuous, a violation of the rights of freedoms of a journalist. Therefore, I as a journalist of formerly attached to Bhutan’s Radio and TV- BBS, Nanda Gautam strongly condemn the government’s verdict and request all concerned to kindly help free Mr. Acharya unconditionally. The details of Mr. Acharya are as follows:

Name: Shanti Ram
Family Name: Acharya
Age: 20 years
Place of birth: Samchi Bhutan
Nationality: Bhutanese
Present residence: Bhutanese Refugee Camp II, Sector D/1, hut number 85, Jhapa district, Nepal
Date of arrest: 16 January 2007
Place of arrest: Tashilakha, Bhutan

Mr. Acharya was forcibly exiled by the Bhutanese regime along with his parents in 1992. He was about 3 years old baby at that time. He was grown up in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal administered by UNHC and studied journalism. He became a member of the Association of Press Freedom Activist and working as co editor for the monthly bulletin The Bhutan Reporter. Because the media within Bhutan does not cover fairly on issues related to the ethnic minority Lhotshampas, he has crossed the Bhutan’s border from India to see particularly the happening in his village. When the Bhutan’s machinery arrested him arbitrarily, he was accused of being a member of so called communist party. At that moment he was taking a picture of a house with a digital camera. The government made his arrest public five days later, on 21 January 2007 through its weekly, Kuensel.

He was produced in the High Court of Bhutan recently and passed a verdict alleging that he was involved for submissive activities against Bhutan by undergoing a training provided by the Communist Party. His association back in the refugee camp refutes this verdict saying that the evidences produced by the police did not mention that Acharya carried out any terrorist activities in Bhutan but only mentioned that he received training with Nepalese Maoists in eastern Nepal. None of the evidence produced by the police speaks that Acharya had acted against Bhutan or Bhutan government. Police charge sheet said he was arrested for taking photograph of an outpost of Royal Bhutan Army with digital camera, which does not substantiate enough evidence to prove his guilt of acting against Bhutan (see attachment).

Campaign for the release of Mr. Acharya from the international communities is very urgent and essential because the Bhutanese legal system does not provide lawyer for the convict and the trial is not fair. There is also no provision to release Mr. Acharya in bail. Therefore I humbly request Your Secretariat to kindly urge Bhutanese regime through its Honorary Consulate Dr. Francoise Pommaret; 2 Rue d Enghein, 75010 Paris. Telephone: 1-44839565 to release Mr. Acharya soon. Your favorable action will be highly appreciated.

Yours sincerely,
Nanda Gautam

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