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Media Situation

Press Freedom Situation

NEPAL PRESS FREEDOM
witnessed increasing trend of
attack and atrocity in 2007-08 AD (2064 BS)

Even following the restoration of democracy and signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) on 21 November 2006 Nepali media and media workers did not witness a sigh of relief and respite from the brutal attacks and blatant violation of press freedom perpetrated by the state, CPN (Maoist) including other political parties and agitating groups. Owing to the deteriorating law and order situation and growing culture of impunity followed by the intended and deliberate assault, the personal safety and professional and institutional security of journalists and media house remained at stake.


According to the record of Freedom Forum Press Freedom Monitoring Desk, over the period of one year from 14 April 2007 to 12 April 2008, three journalists (Shanker Panthi, Correspondent of Naya Satta Daily published from Butwal, Birendra Kumar Sah, Correspondent of Avenues Television, Kathmandu and Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha, Editor of two local newspapers-New Highway and New Season, Birgunj) were killed. Similarly, Kanchanpur-based journalist Prakash Singh Thakuri has gone missing from his rented room in Mahendranagar since July, 2007. 

The Monitoring Desk has recorded 42 incidents of attack on journalists and media institutions, compared to 32 in the same period last year. Since the beginning of the year journalists and media house across the country faced 76 incidents of threats from the state and various armed group, which was 83 in 2006-2007.

This year, more than 82 journalists were manhandled and 31 had to come across misbehavior from armed groups, security personnel and political party cadres in course of discharging their duty. During the period, 18 publications (Dailies and Weeklies) and radio stations were forced to remain shutdown while the agitators compelled the local cable TV operators to telecast CDs prepared to evoke ethnic enmity between people belonging to Madhesh and Hilly region. Mainly, journalists working in the Tarai and the eastern region had faced sinister pattern of threat, obstruction and attack from various regional and ethnic agitating groups during the year.

Likewise, 50 journalists working in various media institutions were dismissed from their job owing to the partisan interference and interest and 52 other were arrested from security personnel in various protests and demonstrations staged to exert pressure on the government and agitating groups for their commitment to ensure protection of freedom of press and of expression.

The promulgation of Right to Information Act-2064, Working Journalists Act-2064 and constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression in the Interim Constitution-2064 BS are some of the laudable achievements that Nepal witnessed during the year, according to the report. However, no other significant initiative and progress has been made from the state side regarding the implementation of these Acts and provisions dwindling chances to bring about reforms in a bid to restructure the media.
But, the advocacy on agenda for change for freedom of expression has begun in Nepal on the initiative of Article 19, Freedom Forum and Federation of Nepali journalists with the view to lobbying and formulating the long-term policy of freedom of expression in Nepal.

As the world observes World Press Freedom Day on May 3, dedicated to journalist safety, the unrelenting situation meted out against journalists in Nepal has been reflected in reports and statements of people and organizations working for the protection and promotion of press freedom. In a message to mark the day, Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) wrote: "Alongside the dangers of conflict areas and war zones, journalists often face threats, intimidation and actual violence as direct result of their work. These acts are unconscionable, not only because they violate the human rights of individuals, but also because they impede the free flow of accurate and reliable information which underpins good governance and democracy."

Discouraging Moves:

With the country ushering into a transition after the restoration of democracy in 2006 AD, Nepali media and press freedom did not see the signs of improvement and development due to the effects caused by a series of confrontation and clash in the name of identity politics.

In the Terai region in particular, journalists faced death threats during strikes and protests carried out by the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the Terai Janatantrik Mukti Morchas, the Madhesi Tigers, the Chure Bhawar Ekata Samaj and other groups. Following death threats or threats of physical action, journalists were forced to write favourable reports of these groups' activities.

Dozens of journalists were attacked, manhandled, threatened, their offices ransacked, their vehicles set ablaze and distribution or transmission were obstructed during the movement. It was often alleged to the leading Medias operating from the central level failed to maintain accuracy in the news and was not as objective, balanced and impartial while covering the first movement launched by the Madhesi community.
According to a research carried out by Freedom Forum, the national media has been more critical while giving space to news related to the Terai unrest. In turn the agitators became more furious against media and media house.

The Maoist leadership has repeatedly expressed its commitment to press freedom but at the same time has continued to obstruct journalists' activities. Maoist activists continue to harass, threaten and abuse journalists, with the Maoists and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum posing the greatest threat to the media.

In 2064, more than 410 journalists have experienced various incidents of press freedom violations across the country due to the effect of their works (see detail in the chart, reflecting press freedom violations incidents, attached herewith).

Journalists demanding reinstatements in their jobs at Gorkhapatra Corporation were thrashed by the Young Communist League on August 9 at the gate of the corporation. The publication of The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post had since August 11 been obstructed by a Maoist-affiliated labour union. Likewise, production of Nepal Samacharpatra, Kantipur, The Kathmandu Post, HBC FM, Drishti Weekly were also obstructed to bring out the publication and disseminate news. They also threatened to attack TV station and Kantipur Television Network.

All weeklies and dailies published from Jhapa district were closed down for an indefinite period due to the general strike and obstruction in distribution caused by the agitating groups in Tarai. In the same period, cadres of Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) set ablaze the vehicle belonging to Kantipur publication in two separate incidents and had also burnt 8,000 copies of Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post in Jhapa.

Important Incident:

The International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission to Nepal visited Nepal from January 13-17 and expressed serious concern over the violation of press freedom taking place throughout the country. The four major issues including professional and professional security of journalists, capacity building, challenges of broadcast media and media lawa were discussed the international delegation and Nepali journalists. 

The mission included representatives from 12 international media organizations working for freedom of expression and opinion.

Notes to The Editors

This report was prepared by Freedom Forum, a non governmental organisation based in Kathmandu. Freedom Forum Nepal is dedicated to the causes of press freedom, human rights, democracy and socio-economic development in Nepal. The Forum is registered with the District Administration Office of Kathmandu and the Social Welfare Council.

Freedom Forum has been providing litigation support and legal counsel through its legal desk to victim journalists, working journalists and media houses.

Freedom Forum lobbies for legal and policy reforms to safeguard press freedom and the professional development of the media in Nepal. It is concerned by breaches in commitments regarding press freedom and requests all political parties and other organizations and actors who have pledged their commitment to press freedom in the past to fulfill their commitments.

Freedom Forum believes that media practitioners in Nepal are generally facing two challenges. One is personal safety and the other is job security. Freedom Forum urges the government to pass the working journalist Act other media laws and policies immediately and implement it effectively.

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