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Monday, 27th April 2015

Nepal's press freedom sees some improvement


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Nepali media suffered a spate of intimidations from different sectors this year restricting journalist's right and capacity to free reporting and citizen's access to information.

Despite this, Nepal's press freedom sees some improvements with declining anti-press incidents followed by effective punitive measures and growing realization to respect media freedom.

This year too, political parties and their youth wings, security bodies, government officials are found involved in press freedom violation incidents. Attacks, threat of physical action, death threat and manhandle to journalists, vandalism of press vehicles, obstruction, newspaper burning, are some important anti-press incidents occurred during the year.

in-focus

The year 2013 witnessed fewer incidents of press freedom violations compared to the year 2012, according to the Press Freedom Status Report-2013 brought out by Freedom Forum, a civil society organization crusading for freedom of expression and of press in Nepal.

The report stated that total 59 incidents of press freedom violation occurred this year against 147 last year and 96 in 2011. The violations had surged last year on the eve of the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (May 27, 2012) while the violations of freedom of expression (especially the freedom of speech) mounted this year on the run-up to the election to the second Constituent Assembly of November 19, 2013.

No substantial laws and policy were brought out this year enabling environment for media freedom and protection of journalists. However, the ministry-level decision to study on online media is an appreciative step. New media as the online media and social media have emerged as new challenge in terms of their regulation without hindering the free flow of information and freedom of expression, the report reads.

This year, police administration arrested three journalists for their updates on news portals as per the Electronic Transaction Act citing cyber crime. The report highlights that the State should address such situation without intervening the spirit of press freedom and freedom of expression, which are the 'oxygen of functioning democracy'.

Professional safety as proper payment to the working journalist is quite discouraging. The physical safety of journalist is threatened also because of the misconduct of journalists' themselves.

The mastermind behind the murder of Uma Singh was nabbed and sent to jail albeit very late. Similarly, the murderers of the journalist Yadav Poudel were life-imprisoned. The killers of journalist Dekendra Thapa from the far-west of Nepal were finally brought to justice despite heavy political pressure and protection. On January 28, 2013, nine leaders and cadres of the then CPN-Maoist were filed murder case by the Dailekh District Court establishing proof of their involvement in journalist Thapa's murder.

Compared to the last year, Nepali media remained satisfactory as the press freedom incidents declined sharply. The independent government was relatively very friendly thereby resulting in the reduction of press freedom violation from 147 to 59.

Only politically neutral and professional role of media unions could help consolidate professionalism in media and protect journalists' rights. Faith-based treatment among journalists would enfeeble media unions' capacity of collective bargaining.

'A review on press freedom violation occurred in the past 15 years is needed so that a long-term plan on media safety and rights could be outlined. As the country is in new democratic context, new kind of media strengthening was essential', said Forum Chairperson Taranath Dahal.

The report also suggests that the coming CA should guarantee the broader regime of freedom of expression and its corollaries – freedom of press and right to information - with proper laws and policy so that all media could thrive healthily and boost democratic practice.


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