29 February 2012

International mission finds impunity, worsening law reform

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Despite initial "dramatic improvements" following the restoration of democracy in Nepal in 2006, journalists continue to get attacked with impunity, and legal provisions to protect free expression have actually deteriorated, an international mission to the country has found.

While the overall number of attacks on journalists has declined in recent years, "many of those responsible for murdering journalists remain at large, promoting a culture of impunity and leading to widespread self-censorship by journalists," said the mission, pointing to the still unsolved murders of
Uma Singh, Birendra Shah and Arun Singhaniya.

Plus, proposed guarantees of freedoms of expression, the media and information online "are actually weaker than those found in the 1990 Constitution," said the mission, which called them "vague" and not in line with international standards.

A media policy that is currently being drafted failed to involve key players, including IFEX member the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), and doesn't address the need for independent regulation of broadcasting and protection of freedom on the Internet, the mission said.

According to the mission, concrete action has been taken in only two areas since April 2006: amendments to the Working Journalists' Act, which outlines job security agreements and fair compensation, and the adoption of the Right to Information Act.

But implementation of both acts remains poor, said the mission. For instance, in January the government issued a document listing more than 140 categories of "secrets" and types of information that should not be made public to go alongside the Right to Information Act. But not a single local stakeholder was consulted, said the mission.

To support reforms, the mission promised to provide a detailed analysis of international standards on free expression, analyse the draft media policy and work with other stakeholders to ensure it is consultative, and support Nepal in creating a sustainable safety development training programme as well as an independent task force "with a mandate to take action to address the culture of impunity."

The International Mission, a coalition made up of 15 international rights organisations, sent a delegation to Nepal on 23-27 February 2012 at the request of FNJ and other members of the Nepali media community. The mission was represented by IFEX members and partners ARTICLE 19, the Centre for Law and Democracy, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the International News Safety Institute, International Media Support, the International Press Institute, Internews, Open Society Foundations, Reporters Without Borders, South Asia Free Media Association, South Asia Media Solidarity Network, UNESCO and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters.

Read their full joint statement here:
Mission finds worsening law reform, impunity and self-censorship

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