Reporters Without Borders today welcomed a supreme court ruling on 18 May suppressing article 8 of the 1992 Radio and Television Broadcasting Act and article 15 (1) of the 1991 Publications and Newspapers Act as incompatible with a constitutional provision guaranteeing press freedom.
The first article gave the government the right to cancel the licences of radio and TV stations that broadcast news. The second allowed the government to restrict or censor coverage of sensitive issues.
“The court’s decision is a step forward for freedom of expression in Nepal,” Reporters Without Borders said, urging parliamentarians to press on with their plans to decriminalize press offences. The supreme court issued its ruling in response to a petition by the Freedom Forum, an NGO.
Welcome end for particularly harsh edict on the media
Reporters Without Borders welcomed the new government’s decision on 9 May to abolish a particularly harsh edict on the media, introduced by the regime of King Gyanendra, which it said had posed a very serious threat to the independent media.
The government, headed by Girija Prasad Koirala, should now turn its attention to other laws that needed reform, said the press freedom organisation, member of an international press freedom mission to Nepal
"It should purge Nepalese laws, in particular the anti-terror law, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Ordinance, of all provisions that allow journalists to be jailed for press offences, or that put a brake on the development of independent media,” said the organisation.
“Nepal will come out of this with enhanced standing if it decriminalises press offences.”
“The government should also guarantee the safety of reporters, who are being regularly singled out for physical assault,” it added, pointing to an episode in the capital Kathmandu on 4 May when a group of five journalists were beaten up by a group of drunken soldiers, who also tried to seize their equipment.
The international mission, which met representatives of seven opposition political parties in March 2006, had called on them to abolish the media edict when they were returned to power.