Monday, December 17, 2018
   
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Govt declines access to information on cabinet decisions: a serious blow to accountability and transparency

Freedom Forum has been alarmed by the Government of Nepal (GoN)'s recent move not to disclose any decision of the Cabinet meeting held on 11 November 2018 Sunday, against the three-decade long tradition of making the cabinet decision public through government spokesperson immediately after the council of ministers' meeting.

Government Spokesperson and Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota, who was currently responsible to brief media about the cabinet decision, said that the decision will be made public in the course of time. "The cabinet meeting has taken various decisions, yet the decisions will remain secret for now. You (reporters) will know about the decisions later. We are mulling about its arrangements," Baskota told media while coming out from the meeting.

Journalists had to wait outside the official residence of Prime Minister K.P Oli for the cabinet decision till late evening as it was scheduled to discuss on various issues of national importance. But, the journalists had to return empty handed following the government spokesperson declined to make any decision public. Editors of the media house are puzzled by this decision as well.

Earlier, the government spokesperson used to brief media about the cabinet decision immediately after the cabinet meeting. After government spokesperson declined to make the cabinet decisions public, journalists took to social media condemning the government's tendency for limiting press freedom.

Freedom Forum condemns the government decision noting that it is against fundamental notion of transparency and accountability. Nepalese citizens had the right to information about the government meetings for the past three decades, which was one of the commendable and established practices of GoN.  However, newly elected government has time and again made decisions that suppress citizen's right of access to information. Now, the media are forced to write news on speculation rather than facts.

 

Moreover, GoN has not made public any other measures to provide information to journalists. This incident has directly affected the constitutionally guaranteed right on Freedom of Expression and Information and Right to Media and Communications. FF concludes that the particular move of the government has targeted civil rights, political freedom, transparency and accountability which would ultimately enable environment for nurturing corruption and bad governance.  Hence, FF urges the government to amend the decision and respect the statutorily guaranteed citizens' right to access information of public importance and interests.

 

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