Press freedom violation and political intolerance on the rise in Nepal, says reportThe Annual World Press Freedom Report paints a grim picture of freedom of expression, press freedom and rights of journalists in the past year.
Press freedom violations, coupled with political intolerance, organised surveillance on media, attack on journalists and critics, censorship and impunity relating to crimes against mediapersons, have increased in Nepal, according to the Annual World Press Freedom Report prepared by Freedom Forum.
In the report made public on Saturday, the civil liberty group found a slight increase in incidents of press freedom violations in Nepal in the last 12 months.
“Number of press freedom violations slightly increased this year with 107 as compared to 104 last year,” read the statement. Province 3, which is also home to the federal capital—Kathmandu, witnessed the highest number of violations (43), followed by Province 2 (20), it said.
The report has also pointed out that most of the violations took place while journalists were doing stories of public interest and concern, and reporting crimes, irregularities, corruption and political demonstrations.
The report also pointed out some major incidents of press freedom violations, including the closure of nearly 50 websites by the Press Council Nepal alleging them of spreading “false information on Covid-19”, the removal of news content by Shiran Technologies Pvt Ltd from a news portal, removal of an interview of former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai from the Radio Nepal website and dismissal of three journalists working at the Dipayal provincial broadcasting centre of Radio Nepal.
Pointing out the recent remarks by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli accusing the media and social media users of acting against stability and development in Nepal, the report states: “The prime minister has repeatedly discredited and demoralised media and its role. Those against free press are encouraged and stoked with such anti-press views.”
Pointing out that efforts to weaken the role of the Human Rights Commission and the judiciary have a direct impact on the impunity relating to crimes against journalists, the report said that delayed hearing on the petitions on freedom of expression and journalists’ rights is worrying.
The report further stated that no significant changes have been made in law and policy since the past year. “Since we reported last time at the end of 2019, conservative and haphazard approaches are adopted in making laws and policies relating to press and information both at federal and provincial levels,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, the report stressed that blaming, discrediting, and making virulent verbal attacks and threatening journalists and free press escalated in the past year. The trend of prioritising government media and discrediting private media has increased alarmingly, the report said. It pointed out instances when journalists from private media were not allowed in the offices of the President and the prime minister, thereby dividing media and journalists.
The report warns that journalists and media houses will see tougher days in the wake of the surveillance. “They therefore need to equip themselves technically and technologically to avoid surveillance,” suggested the report, saying that journalists' capacity building with digital skills is a must to minimise rising digital threats.
The report also appealed to journalists and media houses for active and continuous advocacy of the freedom of expression, free press and journalists' rights while maintaining journalistic ethics.