Amend controversial press freedom provisions: Report

Amend controversial press freedom provisions: Report

KATHMANDU : A report on the status of media freedom was released today (20 January 2019) amid a function in Kathmandu. The report prepared by the Media Action Nepal (MAN), a media rights body defending press freedom, calls for an immediate amendment to the conflicting provisions in the National Criminal Code Act.  Enacted in August last year, some of the clauses in the new law have restrictive provisions that curtail press freedom.

A task force, formed by the government to suggest recommendations for amending the derogatory provisions contained under Sections 293-308 of National Criminal (Code) Act 2018, has grossly failed to provide concrete suggestions. The document submitted to the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology lacks a detailed analysis on the recommendations and fails to establish the nexus between national and international laws.

“The government should take into considerations those recommendations,” said Yuvaraj Ghimire, senior journalist and Editor of Deshsanchar.com, addressing the event organized by MAN.

The report, among other things, makes a reference to two prominent cases involving journalists Barsha Shah and Raju Basnet. While Shah, a journalist at Deshsanchar.com, was detained by police for taking photos at the President’s Office on 13 December 2018, Basnet was arrested for publishing a news report that exposed an attempt to transfer the ownership of land owned by Harisiddhi Brick Industry.

“Nobody should be arrested and put behind the bars for writing news stories,” said Tirtha Koirala, Editor of Thahakhabar.com, also commenting on the report.

Presenting the report, Chairperson of MAN Laxman Datt Pant said that any recommendation by the government taskforce should take cognizance of the 2015 constitution of Nepal and any restriction on press freedom is unacceptable.

Spokesperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Mohna Ansari, “Law-making should not take place in a closed door. Stakeholders should be consulted before enacting any law, including those related to press freedom”.       

A task force, formed by the government to suggest recommendations for amending the derogatory provisions contained under Sections 293-308 of National Criminal (Code) Act 2018, has grossly failed to provide concrete suggestions. The document submitted to the Ministry of Information lacks a detailed analysis on the recommendations and fails to establish the nexus between national and international laws.

“The government should take into considerations those recommendations,” said Yuvaraj Ghimire, senior journalist, addressing the event organized by MAN.

Much like Nepal, the efforts were made through different legislations in India or England to suppress the freedom of press. For instance, the House of Lords of England in the case of Derbyshire Country Council v. Times Newspaper Ltd ruled that a local authority could not sue the press for libel. Similarly, the Daily Newspaper (Price and Page) Act, 1956 was enacted by Indian parliament to regulate the number of pages according to the price charged. But, the Supreme Court of India held this Act ultra-vires to the Constitution.

Like the parliament of Nepal, the task force too failed to take cognizance of Article 14(1) and Article 2(2) of ICCPR, 1966 and suggest the state to uphold these international commitments. Article 14(1) envisaged that “The press...may be excluded from all or part of a trial for reasons of morals, public order...” Likewise, Article 2(2) of ICCPR, 1966 obliges the state to adopt and enact laws in furtherance of the Constitution and implement the provisions of this Bill of Rights. The press restrictive laws incorporated under Sections 293-308 of the National Criminal (Code) Act, 2018 would be free from criticism or unreasonableness had the Parliament of Nepal given effect to Article 19 of the Constitution of Nepal, Article 14(1) and Article 2(2) of ICCPR, 1966 and enacted exception clauses for press and media persons.

 Click in the link below for the full report:

http://mediaactionnepal.org/images/publications/1547963890situation_analysis_media_freedom_in_nepal.pdf