MAN celebrates World Press Freedom Day


Media Action Nepal (MAN) with support from UNESCO and in collaboration with media studies programme of Kathmandu University organized a national seminar on the status of right to information laws and their effective use by investigative journalists on May 3, 2016 in Kathmandu.

Sixty participants, including journalists, human rights activists, media scholars and representatives from various government and judicial bodies, attended the seminar.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Anup Raj Sharma, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said that press freedom is key to democracy. “No one should curb press freedom in any circumstances”. Sharma reminded participants of how journalists have responsibilities to protect democracy and diversity of opinions. Sharma said journalists should respect privacy while exercising freedom of press.
Madhabi Bhatta Parajuli, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) shed light on the need of designing a plan to institutionalize the culture of receiving and imparting information. “Rural masses across Nepal are deprived of access to information, which prevents individuals from better understanding the role of the government,’ she said. She said there are some information brokers who are creating in practicing freedom of press and expression.

Laxman Datt Pant, Chairperson of Media Action Nepal, urged stakeholders to prepare a joint plan of action aimed at making the best use of right to information instruments. “Despite the fact that Nepal recognized right to information as a tool of maintaining transparency in public bodies and ensuring the public’s right to know, citizens and journalists in particular, are not able to dig for information”. Pant sent an important message: that of ending impunity and carrying out investigations into the cases of the journalists killed in Nepal.

J.B. Biswokarma, Coordinator of the Right to Information project of UNESCO, sketched-out the history and relevance of the press freedom movement. He informed participants on UNESCO’s initiatives ensuring citizen’s right to access information. Taranath Dahal, former President of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), Nirmala Mani Adhikary, Coordinator of the media studies programme of the Kathmandu University, Suvechha Bindu Tuladhar, Board Member of the Press Council Nepal and Dev Prakash Tripathi, President of the Print Media National Network, highlighted the different aspects of right to information laws in Nepal and advocated for their effective use.

Two separate working papers were presented during the seminar. Kashi Raj Dahal, Chairperson of the High Level Information and Communication Committee unveiled the problems in terms of the implementation of right to information laws in Nepal. He argued that structural change in the National Information Commission is needed to fit laws into different federal states. Kundan Aryal, a media educator commented on the paper. The session was moderated by Pushkar Mathema, chief-editor of the Gorkhapatra daily.

Santosh Sigdel, presented the second working paper on the effective use of Right to Information for Investigative Reporting. He said that journalists have to understand their rights under the Right to Information Act, know how to frame a request, and master different types of documents. Babita Basnet, gender and media expert commented on the paper. The session was moderated by John Narayan Parajuli of the Kathmandu Post.

Participating journalists, academics and human rights activists including Kapil Kafle, Amrita Lamsal, Manju Thapa, Krishna Poudel, Chun Bahadur Gurung, Jhabindra Bhusal, Somnath Subedi Chandra Sekhar Karki, Dr. Keshav Devkota, Deepak Aryal, Saurav Dhakal, Dr. Sriram Khanal, Shesh Kant Poudel, Tanka Aryal, Bibek Regmi, Kalpana Paudel and Chhatra Shankar raised various questions on the provision of right to information laws and their utilization by journalists while preparing stories.

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated on 3 May to assess the situation of press freedom and to defend the media from any types of attacks and interference on their independence. The day also pays tribute to journalists who lost their lives in the practice of their profession.

In 2016, World Press Freedom Day coincided with three important milestones: The 250th anniversary of the world’s first freedom of information law, covering both modern-day Sweden and Finland, the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration of press freedom principles and the year 2016 is also the first year of the 15 year life-cycle of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Globally, this year’s WPFD has examined the questions from three different perspectives: freedom of information as a fundamental freedom and as a human right, protecting press freedom from censorship and surveillance overreach; and ensuring safety for journalism online and offline.