Nepal | July 06, 2020

Govt refutes OHCHR statement on freedom of expression

Himalayan News Service
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KATHMANDU, JUNE 4

The Government of Nepal said its attention had been drawn to a press statement released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday on freedom of expression during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which a brief reference was made about Nepal.

Issuing a press release today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the reference in the statement did not reflect the facts and reality of press freedom in Nepal.

“The constitution guarantees full press freedom and also ensures effective judicial remedies against any kind of infringement.

The Government of Nepal remains fully committed to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution.”

The MoFA also stated that the government’s functions were guided by the constitution and law of the land. “The Government of Nepal and its Permanent Mission in Geneva stand ready to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in substantiating the facts and information before they are released,” read the MoFa release.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had expressed alarm at the clampdown on freedom of expression in parts of the Asia-Pacific, including Nepal, during the COVID-19 crisis, saying any action taken to stop the spread of false information must be proportionate.

In the statement, Bachelet said arrests for expressing discontent or allegedly spreading false information through the press and social media have been reported in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

“In Nepal, authorities have used a stringent cyber-crime law to arrest a retired bureaucrat who was critical of the government including its Covid-19 response.

According to press freedom groups, there have been several cases of journalists detained while covering COVID-related news, incidents of journalists facing obstruction from authorities and reports of threats and physical attacks against journalists,” she said in the statement.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 5, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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