Nepal | May 23, 2019

PM cements information gag order

Rewati Sapkota

Kathmandu, November 15

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today warned his Cabinet colleagues not to reveal Cabinet decisions until the government spokesperson did so.

In today’s Cabinet meeting, the PM reminded his colleagues that the last Cabinet meeting had decided that only Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota, who is the government spokesperson, would reveal Cabinet decisions to the media.

Baskota organised a press conference after today’s Cabinet meeting, but said nothing about Cabinet decisions, saying he would hold a press conference every week to reveal Cabinet decisions to the press after a week, a move the National Human Rights Commission has opposed.

After the last Cabinet meeting, some ministers had briefed the press about some key decisions, drawing the ire of the PM.

“The underlying message of the PM to his Cabinet colleagues today was to ‘open your eyes and ears but shut your mouth,” a minister told THT.

“Cabinet decisions will not be revealed before 48 hours. Sometimes Cabinet decisions don’t mature within 24 hours,” Baskota told mediapersons. He said if journalists succeeded to get information on Cabinet decisions that would be considered investigative journalism and they would not be punished for that.

Baskota said he would hold press briefings every Thursday in the presence of spokespersons for all ministries to reveal the previous week’s Cabinet decisions.

Member of the National Human Rights Commission and former justice of Supreme Court Prakash Osti told THT: “The constitution ensures citizens’ right to information. The government’s decision to hide information from the public for a week is against the spirit of the constitution. People will seek to know about Cabinet decisions the same day,” he said.

He said the government needed to rethink its decision to keep Cabinet decisions under wraps for a week in the context of constitutional guarantee of the right to information. “The government can only keep classified information secret,” he added.

On a different note, Baskota said there was no alternative for the provincial governments but to accept the executive order issued by the federal government regarding mobilisation of police up to the sub-inspector level.

 


A version of this article appears in print on November 16, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.


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