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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 17:51 GMT
Film star's suicide grips Nepal
Actress Shreesha Karki
Shreesha Karki's family want justice

Shreesha Karki's family spends a lot of time looking at photo albums these days.

Publicity stills of the 24-year-old Nepali film actress are all that her parents, sisters and brothers have left.


We must have justice. Shreesha's death must not be in vain

Kalpana Karki, sister
Shreesha Karki committed suicide in early October, three days after the tabloid newspaper Jana Aastha published what was said to be a photograph of her in the nude.

The picture illustrated an article about alleged prostitution in the Nepali film world.

Her family weeping in the background, Shreesha's younger sister, Kalpana, brushes away a tear and expresses the family's anger.

"We can't have her back, she's gone now," says the articulate young woman.

"But we must have justice. Shreesha's death must not be in vain."

Stars protest

Kalpana and her mother, Mohan Devi Karki, delivered that message to the Nepalese authorities in recent days, backed by a phalanx of actors, actresses and directors - Nepal's film world on the march.


My daughter is a victim of yellow journalism and blackmail

Mohan Devi Karki, mother
About a thousand demonstrators, the Karki family leading the way, marched through central Kathmandu to the main police station.

Along the way, passers-by stopped and gaped in amazement.

The heroes and heroines of the local silver screen were there in the flesh, chanting slogans and carrying banners.

"There's Karishma Manandahar and Krisha Malla," said a man on the posh shopping street, New Road. "What's going on?"

Actress Shreesha Karki
Publicity stills are all that are left
At the Hanuman Dhoka police station, in the historic heart of Kathmandu, police chief Topendra Hamal was equally shocked at the delegation that stormed into his office, behind the two women from the Karki family.

Dozens of journalists and photographers recorded his every word, his expression as he listened to the outraged crowd.

"She was murdered," said Ashok Sharma, a producer and leader of the film world protest.

"My daughter is a victim of yellow journalism and blackmail," said Mrs Karki, anger, for once, overcoming grief.

'Death to yellow journalism'

Later, the film stars gathered in a popular park, again surrounded by thousands of adoring fans.

The onlookers leapt back in shock as the actors and actresses began chanting "Death to yellow journalism, death to Jana Aastha".

The protest ended with a bonfire of tabloid newspapers, the blackening newsprint crackling in the twilight.

"I didn't know it was so serious," said Rama Thapa, a bus driver, who had stopped to check out his favourite actresses.

It is serious, say media critics and serious journalists in Nepal.

'Sleazy'

Tabloid journalism in this country is a remnant of the days when there was no overtly free press, and political parties were banned under an authoritarian monarchy.


I was only trying to expose the sleaze in Nepal's film industry

Kishore Shreshta,
Jana Aastha editor
"The tabloids arose as part of a particular political party's underground manifesto," explains Pratyoush Onta, a media historian.

"Jana Aastha has a long, leftist tradition of exposing the wrongs of authority but now, with democracy, the quality newspapers do this far better.

"So we have this sleazy end of journalism that disgusts and damages people."

The editor of Jana Aastha, Kishore Shreshta, is wanted for questioning by the police, in connection with the cases filed by the Karki family.

Both the prime minister and the home minister say he will be dealt with severely.

'Rot setting in'

Police have yet to track down Mr Shreshta, who went into hiding shortly after Ms Karki's suicide.

Yet he has given several interviews to local media.

"I was only trying to expose the sleaze in Nepal's film industry," Mr Shreshta told the Himalayan Times newspaper.

Not everyone is joining in the - at times gleeful - wholesale condemnation of the tabloid press.

A few commentators have said that there is far more to this affair than a few sexual relationships in the film world.

"This involves senior movie people, police officers, politicians and the business elite too," said a senior journalist who asked not to be named.

"Shreesha Karki should not have died, but perhaps now we'll see some end to the rot that's setting in here. That might help us become a better place."

See also:

21 Oct 02 | South Asia
27 Dec 00 | South Asia
13 Jul 01 | Entertainment
11 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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