By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, AUG 15: Balaram Baniya, the assistant editor of the Kantipur Daily and vocal Chinese critic was reportedly found dead on Tuesday at the banks of Bagmati River, Mandu area in Nepal. The 50-year-old journalist had recently reported the Chinese encroachment on Nepalese territories. China occupied a village in Gorkha district of Nepal bordering Tibet and claimed it as part of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in June.
He had covered politics, reported on Nepalese governance and bureaucracy, and had also become one of the vocal critics of Chinese influence in Nepal. Chinese authorities forced the Nepalese government to issue a press release condemning the report and had asked the deceased to retract from his claims.
A number of press unions and journalists organizations including the Nepal Press Union and the Federation of Nepali journalists are pressing for a fair probe on Baniya’s ‘mysterious death’. They say that his death could be linked to the news stories that he filed against China and also due to China’s history of intimidating and threatening the Nepalese media.
In February, the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu attacked the Kathmandu Post for ‘smearing’ the efforts of the Chinese regime in containing the Wuhan virus, “The Kathmandu Post with a picture of malicious intention has deliberately smeared the efforts of the Chinese government . . . the chief editor has become a parrot of some anti-China forces…. the Chinese embassy reserves the right for further action.”
With continued harassment the Nepalese press media, the unexpected death of journalist Baniya has once again centered the discussion on China’s political motives. The news of his death also surfaced amid the tensed bilateral relations between India and Nepal after the Nepalese government included the Indian territories of Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura in its new political map.