Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 16
Political Environment: 28
Economic Environment: 15
Total Score: 59
|Total Score, Status
The media environment in Nepal remained generally constant from 2008 to 2009, with a continuation of high levels of violence and intimidation toward journalists. Nevertheless, conditions in recent years have represented an improvement over the period that ended in 2006, when massive street protests toppled the direct rule of King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and led to a peace accord with Maoist rebels.
The law guarantees freedom of the press, and Nepalese media were active and provided diverse views in 2009, but a number of threats to media freedom remain. In December 2008, the Federation of Nepali Journalists and the government signed a 10-point agreement to address the federation's complaints regarding attacks on the media and insufficient press freedom safeguards. The agreement called for the formation of a high-level taskforce to recommend policy changes, but it had yet to be implemented at the end of 2009.
While the 2007 Freedom of Information Act was generally welcomed by press freedom groups, it has been criticized for its requirement that applicants submit reasons for their requests, and its lack of a public-interest override that would allow the disclosure of classified or private information.
Violence against journalists and impunity for the perpetrators remained serious problems in 2009. Journalist Uma Singh was beaten to death in Janakpur in January 2009 by a group of approximately 15 men. Police arrested several suspects but did not identify a motive for her murder, despite the fact that Singh's recent articles about the dowry system had caused some controversy in the area. The year also featured frequent nonfatal attacks on journalists, including the December beating of Teeka Bista following her publication of critical articles about the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The assault left her hospitalized with severe back and head injuries.
Supporters of political parties – most commonly groups affiliated with the Maoists or the Nepali Congress party – regularly threatened or attacked critical journalists. On several occasions during the year, Maoists threatened journalists and stole and destroyed copies of critical newspapers.
The southern Terai region remained a hostile environment for journalists. In August 2009, members of the Madhes Terai Forum, a political party based in the area, stole and burned 15,000 copies of three Nepali-language newspapers in the street. Also in August, members of the Terai Madhes Democratic Party attacked three journalists covering a party dispute.
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.
There were no reports that foreign media were banned or censored in 2009.
There were also no reports that the authorities monitored e-mail or blocked websites, though the internet was accessed by little more than 2 percent of the population.
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