2018, a challenging year for freedom of press: Federation of Nepali Journalists

Kathmandu, January 1

The Federation of Nepali Journalists stated that the year 2018 was not an easy year for media houses and journalists as the government frequently targeted them in an attempt to control press freedom.

It said the year 2018 was a challenging year for the Nepali press world. Communication Monitoring Unit of FNJ recorded as many as 58 cases of press freedom violations. “Though the number of PFVs came down to 58 in 2018 from the previous year’s 73, the media industry suffered a lot in terms of harsh legal provisions stipulated by the government to curtail press freedom,” FNJ said.

Some provisions of the Criminal Code Act and Civil Code Act that came into effect from August 17 related to offence against state, public peace, defamation and right to privacy were meant to tighten the noose and curtail freedom of expression and press freedom through draconian laws.

The umbrella organisation of journalists had launched a pressure campaign to make the government amend or revise such provisions.

According to FNJ, at least 15 journalists were attacked and 13 others threatened for their work. Similarly, 12 journalists were intimidated or harassed in the course of news reporting or due to publication or broadcast of news. “The journalists were not allowed to report news in six cases,” it informed.

Four media houses suffered seizure and one underwent policy obstruction. One journalist went missing. FNJ said journalist Tej Bahadur Khadka, who worked for Bajura-based Radio Budhinanda and was also a member FNJ Doti Chapter, disappeared on his way home from Budhinanda, a holy site, in the far-western district on August 26.

Likewise, six journalists were arrested during the period. Raju Basnet, Anjila Sapkota and Gopal Chandra, among others, were held by police and faced charges under the Electronic Transactions Act. “If any party is not satisfied with the news published or broadcast, he/she may file a complaint with the Press Council Nepal. But police arrested the concerned journalists without following due legal process,” it said.

FNJ also said the government barred the journalists from reporting news of programmes to be organised in the Office of the president, mobility of VIPs and the meeting of parliamentary committees. People’s elected representatives also threatened, intimidated and attacked journalists.

Meanwhile, FNJ has condemned anti-press activities and demanded that the government fully implement the provisions of complete press freedom guaranteed by the constitution.

As per the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, Nepal slipped down to 106th position with 32.05 points. In the year 2017 Nepal was in the 100th position with 33.02 points among 180 countries.