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Calls for Action on Behalf of Nepali Media

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Yet another report on Nepali media by the International Media Mission.


The Mission which comprises over a dozen international organizations such as Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Federation of Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders, first visited Nepal in 2005 following the royal direct rule by King Gyanendra. The latest in February 2012) was the seventh visit.

The report based on the most recent visit calls for actions on two key areas-- 1) legal and policy reform, and 2) attacks on journalists and the culture of impunity. It makes recommendations on a variety of topics, from constitutional provisions to media policy to right to information, as well as media platforms (print, broadcasting, online) and impunity, physical safety and professional security of journalists.


The following are the recommendations:

Constitution
- The rights to freedom of expression and information should apply to everyone and should cover all information, not just information deemed to be of concern.
- The right to opinion should be absolute.
- The tests for restrictions on the three other rights - to freedom of expression, of the media and to information - should be amended by narrowing the list of grounds which would justify these restrictions and by making the standard more stringent (for example by replacing 'may' by 'would be likely to').
- Consideration should be given to banning all prior censorship of the media.

Media policy
- The drafting process should be restarted and carried out in a manner that ensures a broad and inclusive consultation involving all interested stakeholders, with a view to finalizing the policy only after the new Constitution has been ratified.
- All key areas should be covered in the policy.
- The policy should support and encourage the development of a pluralistic, inclusive media that provides a platform for democratic discourse and supports Nepal's peace building process.

Right to information
- The government should withdraw the directive listing types of information that are exempt from the Right to Information Act and establish an inclusive committee to create a new list in line with international standards.
- The government should also take steps to reduce the level of turnover of senior staff at the National Information Commission.

Print media
- Establish an independent authority in charge of distributing government funded advertising to newspapers in a fair manner.
- Amend the Press and Publications Act to ensure it respects international principles on press freedom, in particular by abolishing any licensing requirement for newspapers.
- Repeal the Press Council Act of 1992 and allow the creation of an independent, non-statutory press council under the sole responsibility of media professionals, or other self-regulatory systems of media accountability.
- Ensure transparency in media ownership structures.

Broadcasting
- An independent body should be established and given the power to exercise regulatory powers in the broadcasting sector, instead of having the government undertake this role.
- Broadcast licensing rules need to reflect both in spirit and letter, the principles of a three tiered media structure - public, private and community - with frequencies reserved for each tier of broadcasting.
- Licensing rules should be appropriate to the different needs of each type of broadcaster, and non-profit community broadcasters should benefit from simple licensing procedures and preferential fee structures.
- The State broadcasters should be transformed into independent public service broadcasters.

Internet freedoms
- A free and open Internet is an integral part of democratic space in Nepal and the government should not seek to filter or censor the space.
- The Internet should be uncensored and the burden of proof on what constitutes "unmoral" content should lie with the government.
- There should be transparent legal mechanisms and written notifications for all data requests by government agencies. The government should consider developing a data protection law, which can ensure protection of such information.

Impunity
- End all forms of impunity for killers of journalists and ensure that all cases are resolved, and all guilty parties are punished in accordance with the law.
- Enact and enforce a witness protection law to enable witnesses to make statements without fear.
- Publish all available information related to the four most recent murders of journalists.
- Allow journalist murder investigations to proceed without political intervention.
- Make investigations into journalist murders distinct from the peace process.
Killing journalists in reprisal for their work is not a political crime under the terms of the November 2006 CPA.
- Detain and prosecute the masterminds who ordered the killing of Uma Singh and Birendra Sah.

Physical safety
- End impunity for attacks on journalists. Ensure that all cases are resolved, and the guilty are punished in accordance with the law.
- Ensure immediate actions by local police when journalists are attacked.
- Detain and prosecute the key actor in the June 2011 attack on Khilanath Dhakal, who continues to evade accountability on account of his political connections.
- Authorities must fully investigate threats against journalists and establish a protection mechanism.
- Media organizations should take full responsibility to care for victims of attacks in terms of initiating preventive measures, providing insurance cover, and medical coverage.

Professional security
- Media organizations and journalists need to abide by the ethical guidelines and professional practice of journalism.
- Implement the WJA fully and unconditionally across all media, and particularly the government media as committed to by the prime minister.
- Formulate and enforce a fair government advertising policy for leveling the playing field for private and state-run media.
- Create and enforce mechanisms for clear and transparent investments in media. Where media owners have potentially conflicting business interests, these should be stated in all relevant contexts.

The text of the report can be downloaded here (PDF version).

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CPA
Brihát Śhānti Sámjhautā, 2006
(Comprehensive Peace Agreement)








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