Freedom of the Press 2009 - Nepal
|Publication Date||1 May 2009|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Nepal, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b27420128.html [accessed 2 October 2014]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 15 (of 30)
Political Environment: 28 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 14 (of 30)
Total Score: 57 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
The media environment in Nepal reached a plateau during 2008, following significant improvements in 2006 as a result of dramatic political change in which massive street protests forced an end to the direct rule of King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev.
The law guarantees freedom of the press, and Nepalese media were active and provided diverse views in 2008, but a number of threats to media freedom remain. On December 28, the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and the government signed a 10-point agreement to address the federation's complaints regarding attacks on the media during the year and insufficient press freedom safeguards. The agreement called for the formation of a high-level taskforce to recommend policy changes involving freedom of the press and the protection of journalists.
While the 2007 Freedom of Information Act (FIA) has generally been met with enthusiasm by press freedom groups, there were several reports in 2008 of journalists being denied access to government information, particularly in the run-up to national elections in April. The FIA has also been criticized for its requirement that applicants submit reasons for their requests, and for the lack of any exception for information that is in the public interest.
Chapter 4 of the Election Code requires that government-owned radio stations grant free advertising slots to political parties. The code also requires that both print and broadcast media remain impartial throughout the election period and grant equal coverage to a full range of political parties.
There were several reports of media repression during the 2008 election campaign. The International Press Institute reported 63 instances of press violations in the two months prior to elections. Journalists were denied transportation permits to cover certain election events, and security officials reportedly threatened local media groups for reporting on election-related violence. In several cases, activists with the Young Communist League (YCL), which is affiliated with the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), threatened or attacked journalists for publishing negative stories about their party. In one case, CPN-M supporters in Kaski kidnapped a journalist following critical coverage. Other political parties and the Armed Police Force were also responsible for violence and intimidation during the campaign.
The FNJ reported 342 press freedom violations in 2008, and noted a rise in the number of attacks on journalists that went unpunished. Supporters of political parties – most commonly groups affiliated with the CPN-M or the Nepali Congress party – regularly threatened or attacked critical journalists.
The southern Terai region remained a hostile environment for journalists. On January 12, journalist Pushkar Bahadur Shrestha was murdered near the southern city of Birgunj. The Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha rebel group claimed responsibility for the murder. Several southern radio stations that covered the activities of rebel groups received threats in response to their reportage.
The government owns several of the major English-language and Nepali dailies, as well as the influential Radio Nepal and Nepal Television Corporation, the country's main television station.
Private FM and community radio stations, which together with the national radio network reach some 90 percent of the population, are a primary source of news and information, particularly in rural areas.
In 2008, there were no reports that foreign media were banned or censored.
There were also no reports that the authorities monitored e-mail or blocked websites, although the internet was accessed by less than 2 percent of the population.