Although the institutional history of Nepali press could be traced back to 1851 when Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana installed a printing press (the Giddhe Press), or in 1901 when the state-owned newspaper, the Gorkhapatra, was launched, its practical history begins in the 1950s, after the fall of Ranas, when several pioneering journalists took to publishing newspapers in a transitional democracy.
Thirty years after the royal takeover of 1960 represented a repressive press system. During this time, press enjoyed limited rights and lobbied, to some extent, for a multiparty democracy that could guarantee press freedom.
After the Restoration of democracy in 1990 a drastic change came in the Nepali Media particularly in the private sector. Liberal provision and guarantee of press freedom enshrined in the constitution opened up avenues for the private sector to involve on media sector. The 1990's democracy yielded by the People's Movement also established rights and freedom of the press. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal (1990) formally guaranteed the freedom of press and publication.
The 1990 Constitution of Nepal says-
No news/articles shall be censored, provided that nothing shall prevent the making of laws to impose reasonable restrictions on any act which may undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the Kingdom, or which may jeopardize the harmonious relations subsisting among the peoples of various castes, tribes or communities; or on any act of sedition, defamation, contempt of court or incitement to an offence; or an any act which may be contrary to decent public behavior or morality.
No press shall be closed or seized for printing any news item, article or other reading material.
The registration of newspaper or periodicals shall not be cancelled merely for publishing any news item, article or other reading material (Article 13).
And, according to Article 16 of the Constitution, every citizen shall have the right to demand and receive information on any matter of public importance: provided that nothing in this Article shall compel any person to provide information on any matter about which secrecy is to be maintained by law.
During Maoist Insurgency: and King's Direct Rule:
Unfortunately, however, journalism and civil liberties were subjected to victim not only to the government machinery, but also to the violent Maoist insurgency forces in the recent years.
During the first State of Emergency (26 Nov 2001-29 Aug 2002), eight journalists were assassinated, six of them by the security forces and two by the rebels. And more than 150 were arrested and tortured in various ways.
Nepali journalism suffered a lot while it waged a massive struggle against the King's direct rule. The Nepali press suffered worst form of suppression from the state and also did not remain aloof from the threats, obstructions and violence from the insurgents.
The government enforced various restrictive and controversial draconian ordinances that curbed press freedom as the people's right to information despite the fact that the nation's constitution guaranteed full press freedom.
Private sector press was subjected to acute censorship and FM radio stations have been totally banned to broadcast news and current affair programs.
Newspapers were asked by the government not to print any material on security operation or Maoist insurgency without scrutinizing the facts from the Army. Most newspapers outside Kathmandu have suffered intimidation or arbitrary suspension at the order of District authorities. Nearly 50 percent of local publications were closed down owing to unfavorable conditions created by the State.
Due to prohibition on news and news-based programs over private radio stations and strict censorship even on TV channels, several media managements either closed or curtailed programs and relieved staff members. As a result, many journalists have become jobless
People were completely deprived from right to information and other civil rights such as right to free movement inside the country and freedom of expression and of opinion.
Following the February 1 Royal takeover and the imposition of State of Emergency for the second time since 2001, journalists repeatedly faced arbitrary arrests, detention and interrogation. Many journalists were re-arrested even after the Court’s order for their release.
After Restoration of Democracy in 2006:
Despite a historic year for Nepali politics, the country's media faced significant harassment and obstruction; however it contributed enough in bringing the country back to democratic path being a part of the 2006 April Uprising. Ever following the restoration of democracy and signing up of Comprehensive Peace Accord between the Nepali government and CPN (Maoist), a rebel force, 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 agitating parties. During the period from April 25, 2006 to April 12, 2008 after the democracy, altogether 676 journalists and media workers (266 in 2064 BS and 410 in 2065) experienced various incidents of press freedom violation. Likewise, three journalists were killed during this period.
The promulgation of Right to Information Act-2064, Working Journalist Act-2064 (Second Amendment) and constitutional guarantee of freedom of press and expression in the Interim Constitution-2064 have been the remarkable achievements yielded in Nepali press.
During the Terai movement launched by Terai-based various agitating parties and groups, Nepali media witnessed another setback as it was manipulated and numerous incidents of attack and atrocity in the series of political confrontation and clash erupted in the Tarai region In short, there is still need for Nepali Media to wage struggle for their professional and physical safety as well as to establish freedom of press and of expression in Nepal.