Nepali Media: Legal Aspect

Under the Interim Constitution of Nepal (2006),freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed. Free press and right to information and right to privacy is also addressed:

15. Right Regarding Publication, Broadcasting and Press :
(1) No publication and broadcasting or printing of any news items, editorial, article, writings or other readings, audio-visual materials, by any means including electronic publication, broadcasting and press, shall be censored. Provided that nothing shall be deemed to prevent the making of laws to impose reasonable restrictions on any act which may undermine the sovereignty or integrity of Nepal, or which may jeopardise the harmonious relations subsisting among the peoples of various castes, tribes or communities; or on any act of sedition, defamation, contempt of court or incitement to an offence; or on any act which may be contrary to decent public behaviour or morality.
(2) No radio, television, online or any other types of digital or electronic means, press or any other communication media shall be closed, seized or be cancelled the registration because of publishing and broadcasting or printing any material by such means of audio, audio-visual or electronic equipments.
(3) No newspaper, periodical or press shall be closed, seized or be cancelled the registration for printing and publishing any news items, articles, editorial, writings or other reading materials.
(4) No communication means including press, electronic broadcasting and telephone shall be obstructed except in accordance with law.
27. Right to Information :
(1) Every citizen shall have the right to demand or obtain information on any matters of his/her own or of public importance. Provided that nothing shall compel any person to provide information on any matter about which secrecy is to be maintained by law.
28. Right to Privacy : 
(1) Except on the circumstance as provided by law, the privacy of the person, residence, property, document, statistics, correspondence and character of anyone is inviolable.

As we can see, the Constitution bars censorship-except under special circumstances (national sovereignty, communal harmony, defamation, sedation etc). But that does not mean it is a smooth sailing in Nepal.

Hindi movie Delhi Belly faced Nepal’s film censor board and several screenings were cancelled on grounds of obscenity. And last year, the country’s media authorities raised eyebrows when they put Huffington Post on the list of banned websites (turned out to be a huge misunderstanding, they actually wanted to band sex/porn related sites).

Although compared to some of its neighbors, Nepali government is not actively involved in censoring materials, slip-ups do happen and they show that the it is still a long road ahead for a truly free media culture  take hold.

Government’s apparent absence may be because political activists and caders do much of the dirty work for their party and the establishment to silence opposition.

Violence and threats have pushed many to embrace self censorship. Bhuwan Sharma reports at IPS,

“While many are used to violence never being too far away from their work, especially at the height of the 10-year Maoist insurgency, what worries journalists is the fact the culprits behind these attacks are almost always never apprehended.

Already, fear has driven the staff of ‘Janakpur Today’ newspaper, the chairman of whose publishing group was killed by unidentified gunmen on Mar. 1, to finish work as early as they can and leave the office by 6 p.m. before nightfall, says Ajit Tiwari, a journalist who reports from the eastern plains of Nepal. “

Nepal’s ranks 119th out of 178 in 2010 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index. From the summary of the report at Nepal Monitor,

“RSF says that that after an apparent improvement in the situation in 2010, political instability and an increase in activity by several political parties and armed groups are threatening media freedom and the safety of journalists, especially in the districts.

“Some political leaders are providing political protection to people who are threatening and attacking journalists and media,” Reportaers Without Borders said. “This encourages a climate of impunity that is endangering all the achievements of previous months regarding press freedom.”

Impunity and lack of leadership-are often repeated when discussing threats to Nepal’s budding media, and yet successive governments have failed to address the issues properly.

For citizen journalists, facing adversity is even tougher because they do not have an organization(employer) supporting them and the current press laws are not very clear on protections a citizen journalist has.

For suggestions on safety for citizen journalists, here are some posts:

http://ijnet.org/stories/ten-tips-citizen-journalists-cairos-tweet-nadwa

http://gizmodo.com/5853582/how-to-be-a-citizen-journalist-without-getting-killed

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/demotix/4903493/Safety_and_Citizen_Journalism/

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