Nepal | September 27, 2020

‘Govt invoking reasonable restriction provision to curtail press freedom’

Himalayan News Service
Share Now:

Deteriorating press freedom in Nepal has drawn the attention of international press bodies

Kathmandu, June 24

Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission Anup Raj Sharma said that journalists should not face criminal case for doing their jobs.

Interacting with civil society members and editors at a programme organised by NHRC here today, Sharma said the government was wrongly invoking ‘reasonable restriction’ provisions to propose jail term for journalists in some of the new bills, including the Media Council Bill. “These bills violate freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution,” he said.

Civil society members and media professionals have criticised provisions of Nepal Media Council Bill, Information Technology Bill and Advertisement Bill, saying those provisions will curtail freedom of expression.

Sharma said the Supreme Court had already set a precedent in a case that the Attorney General could not override the recommendation of the NHRC and yet the government brought the NHRC Act (Amendment) Bill proposing to give discretionary powers to the AG on whether or not cases should be filed in the court as per the recommendations of the NHRC.

Sharma said the SC had given its reason for denying the AG discretionary powers saying the AG, being a political appointee could easily succumb to the prime minister’s pressure and not act upon the NHRC recommendations.  He said the government’s argument that the AG was the final authority to take a call on whether a criminal case had to be filed in the court or not was wrong as the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority and the Judicial Council themselves filed cases in the court.

The law says that the AG can decide whether or not a case has to be filed in the court unless otherwise provisioned in the law and that means the AG did not have power to claim jurisdiction over all cases, Sharma argued.

Sharma said there was a risk of restrictive provisions getting parliamentary legitimacy as the government had overwhelming majority in the House.

If other institutions cannot check the executive’s excesses, then bills that propose to curtail people’s power may get endorsed by the House, he argued.

Acting President of Federation of Nepali Journalists Bipul Pokhrel said the FNJ was committed to protecting press freedom as provisioned in the constitution. “The Nepali press cannot settle for less freedom,” he said, adding that the FNJ would continue to agitate against the restrictive provisions of new bills.

Pokhrel said that if these bills were passed, people could be jailed for accidentally pressing a wrong key on their smartphones.

He said the government was not in favour of finding negotiated settlements of issues.

Senior journalist Yubaraj Ghimire said that journalists were facing the sword of Damocles as the government was wrongly invoking ‘reasonable restriction’ provisions. He said the NHRC and FNJ should have principled commitment to defend each other’s causes as their struggle was important to protect and promote human rights.

Another senior journalist Harihar Birahi said deteriorating press freedom in Nepal had drawn the attention of the international press bodies and soon those bodies could visit Nepal to assess the situation here. He said there was a risk of the government becoming tyrannical.

Executive Director of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal said the government had boasted in international fora about its record on human rights, women rights and inclusion, but the recent bills had exposed the government’s ill intentions. He said the government was wrongly interpreting ‘reasonable restrictions’ to propose restrictive provisions in new laws.


A version of this article appears in print on June 25, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Remittance surges 23pc in first month of FY 20-21

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 25 Against the general expectation that remittances would take a major hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, the money sent home by Nepali migrants in the first month (mid-July to mid-August) of fiscal year 2020- 21 surged by 23 per cent. The Macroeconomic Update of the fir Read More...

713 proposals submitted for joint infrastructure development to MoCTCA

KATHMANDU, SEPT 25 The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has received 713 proposals for tourism infrastructure development across the country. Under the Tourism Infrastructure Construction and Tourist Product Development Joint Project Framework 2020, MoCT- CA had called Read More...

consumer price inflation slows to 3.49pc

KATHMANDU: The year-on-year consumer price inflation stood at 3.49 per cent in mid-August 2020 compared to 6.95 per cent a year ago reveals the central bank’s Macroeconomic Update report unveiled on Friday. Food and beverage inflation stood at 5.38 per cent whereas non-food and service inflatio Read More...

BPKIHS confirms another death from COVID-19 on Saturday

DHARAN: BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan has confirmed another death due to Covid-19, on Saturday. The 63-year-old man from Rajbiraj Municipality-3 in Saptari district died at 1:15 am during the course of treatment, according to Dr Nidesh Sapkota at the hospital. He said the eld Read More...

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 32.46 million, death toll over 985,000

At least 32,467,949 people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 985,007 people have died, a Reuters tally showed. India reported 86,052 new coronavirus cases on Friday and was set to overtake the United States by next month as the world's worst-affected na Read More...

1,207 new cases take Nepal’s coronavirus tally to 71,821 on Saturday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s coronavirus tally moved to 71,821 as 1,207 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours. As many as 1,147 people that had earlier contracted Covid-19 tested negative for the infection as per the Ministry’s latest data. So far, 53,013 people have recovered from the dise Read More...

Eight Covid-19 fatalities registered on Saturday, death toll advances to 467

KATHMANDU: Eight more individuals diagnosed with coronavirus infection have succumbed to the disease, the Ministry of Health and Population confirmed at its regular media briefing on Saturday. All of those reported dead were males. Details of the deceased individuals 66-year-old male, Sap Read More...

Dhangadhi Sub-metropolis continues providing free food to returnees from India

DHANGADHI: Dhangadhi Sub-metropolitan City has been providing food and hygiene kits free of cost to Nepalis returning home from India via Trinagar border checkpoint since March. The Sub-metropolis has been providing food for Nepalis who are tired after a long journey from India since the time Read More...