Call to amend sections of criminal code

Kathmandu, August 18

Reporters Without Borders has called on Nepali authorities to amend several sections in the country’s new criminal code, which came into force yesterday, as they limit the freedom to provide news and information in public interest.

Nepali journalists may face up to three years in prison if they publish information that is deemed to be ‘confidential’ under the criminal code. Several of its sections relating to the protection of privacy pose a serious threat to journalistic practices.

According to RWB, Sections 293, 294 and 295 criminalise publishing private information, recording conversations or taking pictures without permission. Under Section 306(2), showing ‘disrespect’ towards someone either directly or through satire is also punishable and anyone found guilty of such acts may face up to three years in prison.

“We call on the Nepalese authorities to immediately rewrite these provisions because, in their current form, they would seem to constitute an unacceptable censorship tool,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RWV’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“They must take account of the need to be able to gather news and information in the public interest. By leaving too much to the judge’s discretion, these articles could be used to criminalise all investigative journalism and criticism of public figures. If they are not amended quickly, Nepal is liable to fall sharply in RWB’s World Press Freedom Index,” he warned.

The preamble of the constitution proclaims full freedom of the press, while Article 19 prohibits censorship. Journalists are nonetheless often subjected to pressure from various authorities, as when the head of the supreme court tried to prevent the publication of any reports criticising him. He was later removed.

Nepal is ranked 106th out of 180 countries in RWB’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Nepal had slipped six spot down to the 106th position with 33.02 points compared to last year’s ranking among 180 countries. Earlier, Nepal was ranked 100th with 33.02 points.