104 cases of press freedom violations in a year

Kathmandu, May 1

Incidents of press freedom violations continued unabated this year, affecting 158 journalists across the country, according to a report by Freedom Forum, an NGO.

As per statistics released by the forum on the occasion of the World Press Freedom day today, it recorded as many as 104 such violations.

A total of 66 press freedom violations were reported last year. Out of total violations this year, 31 are attacks and manhandling, followed by 28  cases of misbehaviour, 19 threats, 15 arrests, six vandalism and obstruction, one suspension and one arson, and three court cases.

Junior security personnel, political cadres and businesspersons remained hostile to journalists this year too. As per province-wise analysis, Province 3, which is also home to the federal capital Kathmandu, witnessed the highest number of violations (39), followed by Province 2 (25). Province 1 and Province 6 shared equal number of violations (7).

Gandaki Province and Province 5 witnessed equal number of violations (9) and Far-west Province recorded eight cases of violations.

Most of the violations took place while journalists were covering stories on public interest issues, crime, irregularities, corruption and political demonstrations.

This is to be noted that more than a dozen of bills related to information and mass communications were drafted or enacted by the government over the period. However, some provisions in the proposed bills were inconsistent with the international instruments on the rights to expression and the constitution. For example, the Criminal and Civil Code Act posed a threat to the freedom of expression in the name of national security, privacy, defamation, blasphemy, obscenity and hate speech.

In blatant violation of press freedom, obtaining approval from concerned authorities was made mandatory for journalists for taking photographs, the report read.

Similarly, Individual Privacy Act aimed at discouraging journalists to publish or broadcast investigative stories, in the pretext of privacy of public figures and public offices. According to the report, the Bill on Management and Regulation of Information Technology intends to curtail the freedom of expression of internet-based media. The proposed provision of stringent punishment for posting improper contents on social media is equally threatening to media freedom and citizen’s rights to expression.

“Against the broader expectation that journalists and media fraternity would have a favourable atmosphere for free reporting and respect to their profession, the rising number of violations perpetrated against media is a disappointing trend. It is to be noted that this year’s figure is the highest in six years,” according to the report.