The Federation of Nepali Journalists, the umbrella organisation of all working journalists in the country, has condemned the government's decision to classify 87 kinds of information with the aim of curtailing dissemination of information of public interest.

The FNJ has accused the government of trying to curtail the 'right to information' by blocking the information right at the source.

During the transition period after elections (while former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was leaving the office and before Pushpa Kamala Dahal became the new PM), the Information Classification Committee led by the chief secretary decided to repeal the Right to Information Act-2007 and classify 87 types of information. It drafted the new rule and sent it to the National Information Commission.

The relevant notice has not been made public yet. Even Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal did not know about it. A member of the PM's secretariat said the PM came to know about it only after the FNJ and others protested the new rule.

FNJ Chair Bipul Pokharel told THT that the government was allowed to keep five types of information confidential, but keeping confidential 87 types of information related to state activities, finance department, and annual report publication was a serious violation of the fundamental right of the people.

The new rule has classified 29 kinds of information that the government will keep secret for 30 years, 29 kinds for 20 years, and another 29 for 10 years. Even official meetings with high-level government dignitaries shall remain secret for 20 years.

"This rule curtails the fundamental right to information and violates the Right to Information Act-2007, which has provisions that don't allow the government to obstruct dissemination of basic information that is of public interest," said Bishta.

Meanwhile, PM Dahal has agreed to meet FNJ members to discuss the issue. "We have received confirmation from the PM's office that he is willing to amend the new rule, as we expect the government to honour the right to information," Bishta said.

A discussion has been scheduled at the PMO at 1:00pm tomorrow. Representatives of the FNJ, Information Commission, and National Human Rights Commission will take part in the discussion.

National Information Commissioner Mahendra Man Gurung cited a 2011 case in which the Supreme Court struck down a similar attempt by the government to curtail dissemination of information.

FNJ has condemned the govt's decision to classify 87 kinds of information.

A version of this article appears in the print on January 29, 2023, of The Himalayan Times.