Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Nepal: Concerted push for journalist safety in Nepal

Source: International Media Support 
Concerted push for journalist safety in Nepal

Representatives of an alliance of 14 media development and freedom of expression groups are in Nepal this week pushing for improved safety of journalists.

The concerted push includes support to Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission in its establishment of a national safety mechanism aimed at improving the conditions for journalists and establishing measures to combat impunity for those who violate the rights of journalists and human rights defenders. It is being organised in partnership with the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ).

The international media and freedom of expression alliance, the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) has campaigned for the safety of journalists, press freedom and freedom of expression in Nepal since 2005 when the conflict that ended in 2006 was at its peak.

Consisting of over a dozen international organisations, including UN agencies, global media associations, freedom of expression advocates and media development groups, the partnership alliance has over the years highlighted the grave conditions for press freedom and brought together key stakeholders, including leaders of all major political parties and heads of security agencies and government officials, seeking commitments for guarantees of media rights, safety of journalists and the end to impunity.

The safety mechanism now being conceived by Nepal National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was recommended by NIMP and Nepali stakeholders in 2012 and falls in line with the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity. The mechanism brings together key organisations responsible for ensuring rule of law to use a common platform for discussing issues, following up on progress on specific cases, discussing and taking necessary actions to promote the protection of freedom of expression of journalists and human rights defenders who are threatened or attacked for expressing themselves or while collecting information and opinions.

The mechanism is expected to take both proactive and reactive measures to prevent attacks and violence against free expression and to end impunity through necessary follow up steps to ensure that those guilty are brought to justice.

Nepal’s transition, which began in April 2006 after the country’s civil war ended, has become less violent but remains complex. Even though there are guarantees for press freedom and freedom of expression in the Interim Constitution and the government has passed several laws that favour freedom of expression, the issues of safety of journalists and protection of press freedoms remain major challenges.

In February 2012, NIMP reviewed the constitutional provisions in Nepal’s old constitution and the proposals for a new statute. The resulting analysis suggested that many of the provisions in the Interim Constitution still fell short of international standards. According to the Federation of Nepali Journalists, there has been a decline in attacks on journalists in recent years. However, there has been an increase in self-censorship, which could also explain the decrease in attacks; that journalists may be ‘playing it safe’.

For background information on NIMP and its work in Nepal over the past decade, please see reports listed at the top-right of this page.