Members of the ‘International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission to Nepal’ have been closely monitoring the developments in Nepal since the process of restoring democracy and press freedoms began in April 2006. The International Mission welcomes the enactment of the Right to Information Act and steps to protect the rights of journalists under the Working Journalists Act. In addition, we commend those Nepali journalists and media and freedom of expression organisations that have continuously advocated for legislative reform and defended press freedoms.
At the same time, the International Mission remains highly concerned about the continuing violence against journalists and the media in Nepal, including by groups affiliated with the former combatant parties in the conflict. According to information provided by Nepali sources, there have been over 116 incidents of attempts to prevent journalists from doing their job of informing the people between 1 January and 31 July 2007 alone.
These incidents include arrests, attacks on media companies, abduction of journalists, threats and harassment and obstructions to the free flow of information, including disruptions in the production processes. It is disturbing that the same media which played a leading role in the restoration of democracy a year ago have now become the target of attacks from various groups.
A free and fairly elected Constituent Assembly remains the next vital step in Nepal’s peace process. The Constituent Assembly, for which elections are currently scheduled for November, will have a mandate to adopt a new Constitution which will define the structure of the State. Such a process depends on increased and informed debate in which the positions of all stakeholders are heard, and this will only be possible if there is a free, independent and pluralistic media able to inform the public without fear of retribution. The lack of such a plural and unobstructed media environment throughout the country, and specifically in those areas affected by conflict, could jeopardise a free and fair outcome to the elections.
We therefore call on all stakeholders, including the Government and specifically the Ministry of Information, the political parties and affiliated groups throughout Nepal, the numerous active interest groups and the Nepali people in general to work collectively to build an environment that enables the media to report on the elections effectively and safely free from intimidation or attack.
Members of the International Mission include:
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Media Support (IMS)
International Press Institute (IPI)
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)