The Federation of Nepali Journalists has issued a press release saying that cases of press freedom violation rose from 52 in 2019 to 62 in 2021. FNJ said that 190 journalists and four media houses were victimised in 62 violations of press freedom.

There were 32 cases of misbehaviour against journalists and 10 cases of threat against journalists. Ten cases of obstruction and five cases of attack on journalists/media houses were recorded. FNJ also said that the federal, provincial and local governments introduced bills in 2021 with the objective of curtailing press freedom.

Similarly, Freedom Forum, that champions the cause of freedom of press and right to information, also said it recorded 59 press freedom violation incidents in 2021 that directly affected 83 mediapersons among which 11 per cent were female and 89 per cent male.

According to an annual report of Freedom Forum released today, the types of press freedom violation incidents include violations misbehaviour, attack, threats, obstructions, and arrest. The major forms of violation of press freedom this year were misbehaviour against 20 journalists, followed by attack (manhandling) against 20 journalists.

Even a court case was initiated against a journalist, and seven journalists were arrested.

The maximum violations of press freedom were recorded in Bagmati Province with total 29 cases followed by Province 2 and Karnali Province with seven cases each. Gandaki province and Sudurpaschim provinces recorded four cases of press freedom violations each, whereas Province 1 recorded only two cases of press freedom violations.

Most of the mediapersons (40) affected by the violation of press freedom were associated with online media. It was followed by 16 and 13 journalists associated with Radio and Print media respectively.

Freedom Forum stated in its release that the Information Technology Bill that had been under the consideration of the parliament for the last three years contained provisions that had capacity to curtail press freedom and freedom of expression.

One of the glaring examples of state agencies' suppression of media was the interrogation of journalists by the Supreme Court. On 25 May, the Supreme Court summoned Chief Editor of www.imagekhabar.com Rajan Kuikel, and Editor-In-Chief of www. nepalsamaya.com Narayan Amrit, for allegedly publishing 'baseless news'. The journalists were grilled over their source of news.

The Apex court is a trusted as a guardian of all freedoms, but such intolerant attitude of the court raises questions over its respects towards press freedom. Such incidents not only harass journalists but also discredit independent media, Freedom Forum said in its release.

Freedom Forum further stated that the misuse of Press Council Nepal was another worrying trend that continued this year too. Instead of promoting professional media practice by regulating content of media fairly, the council has been time and again suspending and blocking media over critical views against government, it said.

Four online media, namely: www.ehimalayatimes.com, www.birjungcity.com, www. koshipati.comand and www.nrnkhabar.com, online media were blacklisted on the grounds that they disregarded its instructions. Further, other online news portals, namely, www.nepalaaja.com, www. karnalikhabar.com www. deshsanchar.com and www. setopati.com were questioned over their news title.

Executive Director of Press Freedom Taranath Dahal said that the trend of press freedom violations indicated that elected representatives and public officer's commitment to protect and promote press freedom was just a lip service. He said political leaders and policymakers must develop a culture to tolerate critical views.

A version of this article appears in the print on January 1, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.