AHRC: Don’t muzzle press freedom to protect courtFundamental rights of the people, including freedom of expression and media freedom, cannot be suppressed in the name of "protecting" the dignity of courts, an int'l rights watchdog said.
Expressing its serious objection to the Contempt of Court Bill that the government tabled in Parliament on June 9, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said if passed the bill will restrict the freedom of expression and media freedom.
"The judiciary is a vital organ of the state; it must be treated with dignity and respect. But fundamental rights cannot be taken away in the name of protecting the dignity of courts," it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Respect for the freedom of expression and media freedom as enshrined in the UDHR, ICCPR, and the Interim Constitution of Nepal itself needs consideration, the AHRC urging the government to consider withholding passage of the bill until wide consultations with stakeholders are held.
"When powerful politicians make a mockery of court judgments that is contempt," the rights body said, citing example of the Balkrishna Dhungel case. Dhungel, who has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, remains a free man.
"The executive and judiciary have been unable and unwilling to incarcerate him. This indignity goes unmentioned," the AHRC added. "However, legitimate questions in the media about publicly relevant facts related to newly-appointed judges have met judicial ire."