Nepal | July 03, 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:

TUTH. Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj

49-day-old infant diagnosed with Covid-19 passes away in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU: A 49-day-old infant diagnosed with Covid-19 passed away on Wednesday evening at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH), where he was receiving treatment. Ministry of Health and Population, in its regular press briefing, confirmed the passing of the baby. The infant -- resident o Read More...

PM advised to reach out to rival NCP faction

Kathmandu, July 1 A day after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was asked by Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Standing Committee members to resign from both the posts of prime minister and party co-chair, the PM was advised by his aides in the party to reach out to the rival faction. Oli held a meeting Read More...

Nepal could witness yet another huge locust invasion

Kathmandu, July 1 The Locusts Information Centre has warned that a large swarm of locusts is likely to enter Nepal from India over the next couple of days. According to the centre, the swarm of locusts is headed towards Darjeeling from Bhagalpur and Motihari in Bihar. As the swarm is likely to Read More...

Hunger strike by youth activists enters sixth day

KATHMANDU, JULY 1 Iih, 26, who initiated ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign demanding effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government, has been on fastunto-death in a sattal (rest house) at Patan Durbar Square as his hunger strike entered the sixth day today. Iih has been joined by Read More...

‘Citizenship bill not inclusive’

KATHMANDU, JULY 1 Although the constitution is progressive in terms of citizenship issues it does not guarantee equality. Even after five years of the promulgation of the constitution, necessary amendments have yet to be made to Citizenship Act-2006, as per the provisions of the constitution. Read More...


Mexican president to hold first meeting with Trump, Democrats unimpressed

MEXICO CITY: Mexico's president and his US counterpart Donald Trump will hold their first meeting on July 8 in Washington, officials said on Wednesday, sparking complaints from Democratic lawmakers, who saw it as a political stunt with elections looming. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ha Read More...

Twitter removes image tweet by Trump over copyright complaint

Twitter Inc has taken down an image tweet by the US President Donald Trump on June 30, in response to a report from a copyright holder. Twitter now displays the message “This image has been removed in response to a report from the copyright holder,” in place of the tweet. News website Axio Read More...

Gunmen kill 24 people in attack on Mexican drug rehab center

MEXICO CITY: At least 24 people were killed in an armed attack on a drug rehabilitation facility in the central Mexican city of Irapuato, Mexican police said on Wednesday, underlining the challenge the government has in fulfilling a pledge to stop gang violence. Police in the city in Guanajuato s Read More...