Kathmandu, May 2
Amnesty International Nepal today urged the government to ensure press freedom allowing journalists an independent and friendly work environment by amending draconian laws.
“The government must uphold press freedom and rectify legal provisions that are contrary to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression,” said Nirajan Thapaliya, director of AI Nepal, in a press release. “Amnesty International reaffirms its support to press freedom. For us, journalists are the front line rights defenders who bring to light abuses and violations suffered by people. Journalism is not a crime and journalists should not become subjects of violence in exercising their profession. The state should take the responsibility for the security of journalists and freedom of the press,” he added.
The 26th World Press Freedom Day this year presents a stark reminder of Nepal’s steady decline from 100th to the 106th position in the World Press Freedom Index as recorded by Reporters Without Borders, according to the press release.
According to the Federation of Nepali Journalists, 36 journalists have been killed since 1996, while dozens of reporters and editors were arrested, detained or fined after the Electronic Transaction Act came into effect in 2006.
FNJ reported 60 incidents of violation of press freedom last year.
Past couple of years have witnessed tightening of laws and regulations in various countries, including Nepal, aimed at restricting the free operation of media and silencing of the dissenting voices critical of the establishment.
Last month, Arjun Giri, a Pokhara-based journalist, was charged under the Electronic Transaction Act for reporting a case of financial fraud. In 2018, several journalists were arrested under cyber-crime charges. In September, Raju Basnet was arrested merely for posting news on a case of financial fraud in a weekly paper. FNJ has recorded the arrest of six journalists in 2018.
“The state must show its unflinching support to the constitutional promise of the free press and improve this bleak picture of press freedom in Nepal. It is only by ensuring the freedom of expression as enshrined in Nepal’s constitution that Nepal will be able to strengthen a free, fair and truly democratic society,” added Thapaliya.
A version of this article appears in print on May 03, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.