Himalayan News Service
Kathmandu, March 20:
Legal experts, senior journalists and human rights activists today expressed serious concern over censorship on the media and viewed that the move is against the right to information guaranteed by the 1990 Constitution. They opined that the state of emergency was aimed more at curbing the freedom of expression than controlling terrorism. Addressing a function organised by the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) at the Media Village, retired Supreme Court justice, Laxman Prasad Aryal, said that right to information had been included in the constitution as a fundamental right to make sure that no other laws would impose any restrictions on the free flow of information. â€œThe law of the nation has conceived that democracy cannot flourish in absence of free Press,â€ said Aryal, who is one of the makers of the 1990â€™s constitution. He said that present State of Emergency is a move towards a kind of dictatorship and is unacceptable to mankind.
Judiciary and freedon of Press were given special status in the constitution to make sure that people would be empowered through democratic exercise. Noted journalist and former FNJ president, Harihar Birahi, viewed that peace and democracy would never be restored by controlling the media. It is wrong to say it is the media that encouraged terrorism, he said.
â€œThe media has never backed terrorism and advocated republicanism,â€ Birahi said, â€œRather, it has played a role of pressure group in favour of peace and democracy.â€ The government could achieve its goal of restoring peace and democracy by taking the media into confidence, he said. Former FNJ president Maniraj Upadhyaya also viewed that democracy cannot sustain in a country where Press freedom was curtailed.
He, however, said that the Nepali media could not perceive what then minister for information and communication, Dr Mohammad Mohsin, had warned. Mohsin had warned that the country would move towards dictatorship if the then coalition government failed. Upadhyaya also accused that the media was heavily polarised and politicised and it failed to serve the national interests. He suggested that the media should play responsible role in a state of emergency. Reacting to Upadhyayaâ€™s statement, Rajendra Dahal, Editor of Himal Khabar Patrika, a fortnightly news magazine, said that it would be wrong to expect the media to play a responsible role at a time when its hands are tied. â€œThe media should maintain its restraint. But it should present its views fearlessly,â€ Dahal said, adding that the Press should fight against both types of extremisms.
Meanwhile, in a memorandum to the government, FNJ president Tara Nath Dahal warned the government against making any amendments in the existing laws governing the Press and publications. â€œWe ask the government not to take any measures to amend the laws unless an elected parliament comes into effect,â€ the memorandum says. It has also demnded the government release eight journalists who are still in detention across the country.