See More on Facebook

OPINION: Mockery of press freedom

The year 2019 saw more incidents related to press freedom violation than in the past seven years, according to a report of Freedom Forum Nepal.


Written by

Updated: January 24, 2020

At the end of last year, a photo of a so-called oath-taking ceremony, in which around 350 media persons were seen swearing allegiance to the ruling party and the government, went viral. This is perhaps the worst mockery of independent journalism in the country observed in 2019. Looking back at the past year from the perspective of press freedom and freedom of expression, the Nepal Communist Party-led government appears to have become more aggressive and hostile with its attempts to control the freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. Aiming to silence criticism against the government and the ruling party, it introduced several repressive laws.

There were 111 incidents affecting 163 journalists, including 49 physical attacks, 38 arrests and 33 threats. According to the report, the highest number of incidents occurred in Province 3, with Kathmandu Valley bearing the brunt of the violations.

Harassed and intimidated

Journalists were harassed and intimidated by employing the Electronic Transaction Act. In April, Arjun Giri of Pokhara was detained for cyber crime charges after a local businessman reported a case of defamation. Giri had published a story on his portal about financial fraud involving the businessman. A similar case was filed against Shiva Gaunle, editor of the Centre of Investigative Journalists, after the publication of a Nepal Leaks report which looked into dozens of Nepali entrepreneurs who had invested in international tax havens by evading national regulations.

The government also warned singers, artists and activists that they were not free to express their critical opinions in any form. Singer Pashupati Sharma was forced to remove his song critical of the government from YouTube on February 16 after the youth wing of the ruling party issued a threat. Thakur Timalsina, a poet from Rasuwa, was arrested on April 26 for his alleged support of a banned political party. Comedian Pranesh Gautam was arrested on June 7 for his critical comments about a film and remained in custody for nine days. Anti-corruption activist Gyanendra Shahi was severely beaten up on September 28 by a pro-government vigilante group in Chitwan when he was organising a campaign.

The year witnessed the largest effort of government agencies to silence journalists, members of the public and other stakeholders by introducing and implementing authoritarian laws, regulations and policies. The Information Technology Bill, for example, aims to regulate internet-based companies in Nepal and tighten the use of social media. Chapter 14 of the bill states that individuals who post ‘improper content’ face a Rs1.5 million fine and a five-year jail term. The Individual Privacy Act threatens investigative journalists as it allows their report to be taken as evidence of violation of a citizen’s right to privacy. The Advertisement Regulation Bill intends to criminalise advertisement content. The government also introduced a policy that restricted civil servants from sharing their views on social media platforms.

All levels of government, from federal to municipal, drafted laws that contradict constitutional provisions, specifically Articles 17, 19 and 27, and international standards of press freedom and freedom of expression. Provinces 1, 2, 5 and 6 introduced media and information related laws (such as Defamation Act and Right to Privacy Act) that were strategically developed to control journalists with regard to accessing information and disseminating critical reports. Several municipal governments introduced laws that were harsher than federal and provincial laws to suppress and kill negative news about local officials.

Repressive provisions

After a deluge of national and international criticism, the government was supposed to reform the draconian laws and policies; but it has been laying low, possibly waiting for a favourable moment to pass them as they are. The much-defamed Media Council Bill is stalled in Parliament, and its repressive provisions remain intact. According to the bill, media houses and journalists can be fined up to Rs1 million for violating the journalists’ code of ethics or tarnishing the dignity of individuals. More seriously, Media Council Nepal could come under the direct control of the government. Despite the many pledges issued by government agencies and political leaders, the state of impunity for crimes against journalists who were killed, disappeared or severely injured remains unaddressed.

When the government is involved in giving systematic political orientation to journalists as pro-government media cadre to cultivate a media environment favourable to it, darker days can be expected ahead with further attempts to curtail press freedom and control the political environment.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Kathmandu Post
About the Author: The Kathmandu Post was Nepal’s first privately owned English broadsheet daily and is currently the country's leading English-language newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Thai students lead protests calling for political change

Wave of flash mobs triggered by court verdict to disband opposition party Future Forward. Making the three-finger salute, a gesture from blockbuster The Hunger Games, to signify defiance against a dictatorial regime and singing Do You Hear The People Sing? from the musical Les Miserables, a few hundred students at a prestigious high school known for academic excellence yesterday morning joined a wave of antigovernment protests across Thailand. For Triam Udom Suksa School, located in the heart of Bangkok, an organised protest led by the students themselves was a rare sight. “I have heard objections to why kids like us need to come out and protest. I want to ask them why they think kids cannot express our political opinions,” 17-year-old Napat


By The Straits Times
February 28, 2020

869,000 sign petition calling for Moon to be impeached

Even as the government goes all out to curb the spread of the virus, such as revising an infectious disease Act to fine people up to US$2,400 for refusing a virus test, and limiting the export of face masks to 10 per cent of the output, criticism of the Moon administration has grown. Close to 869,000 people in South Korea have signed a petition to impeach President Moon Jae-in over what they claim is the government’s mishandling of the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country. The number of infections continued to surge yesterday, hitting 1,261. The petition criticised Mr Moon for not banning all visitors from China, where the coronavirus originated, and for sending three million face masks to the country. Only visitors from China’s Hubei province are


By The Straits Times
February 27, 2020

S’pore, South Korea and Hong Kong rebound as other Asian markets bleed

STI gains on signs that the virus outbreak here seems to be largely contained. Markets in Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea enjoyed a relief rebound yesterday even as others in Asia extended losses following a global stock rout stoked by fears that the rapid rise in new coronavirus cases outside China could further dent global growth. Tokyo led the plunge with a 3.34 per cent loss after reopening yesterday, dragged down by virus fears and the Dow’s 1,031-point plunge. Sydney shed 1.6 per cent, while Shanghai lost 0.6 per cent. But the Straits Times Index gained as much as 0.9 per cent before closing up 0.51 per cent, on signs that the outbreak here seems to be largely contained. South Korea’s hard-hit Kospi index rebounded 1.18 per


By The Straits Times
February 26, 2020

South Korea reports 231 new cases

Health official leading fight against virus in Daegu among those infected; 2 more deaths. South Korea has reported another huge spike of 231 new coronavirus cases yesterday, among them a health official leading the battle against the virus in the south-eastern city of Daegu, who has admitted he is a member of the secretive church linked to more than half of the country’s infections. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 833 as of yesterday, with 14 in critical condition. The country also reported two more deaths, raising the tally to eight, while 22 people have made a full recovery. South Korean stocks tumbled 4 per cent yesterday over virus woes, as the central bank urged continued efforts to minimise the fallout from the outbreak.


By The Straits Times
February 25, 2020

South Korea’s key industries hit hard by Covid-19

South Korea’s major industries – including electronics, automobiles, retail and oil refining – are on high alert due to a surge in Covid-19 cases here, as well as the market slowdown in China, the nation’s biggest export destination. As of Monday morning, the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients stood at 763, up 161 from the previous day, and the death toll had risen to eight. The nation’s largest tech firm, Samsung Electronics, temporarily shut down its operations at its Gumi plants on Saturday after one of its employees was confirmed to be infected. The Gumi site produces next-generation smartphones such as the Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy Fold. The plant resumed operations Monday afternoon after taking quarantine measures. Another chipm


By Asia News Network
February 24, 2020

China confident of virus battle victory

 Xi thanks Pakistani, ROK leaders for support, donations in phone talks. China is capable of winning the battle against the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, which cannot undermine the foundation of China’s long-term development, President Xi Jinping said on Thursday. Xi made the remark in telephone conversations with Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan, and Moon Jae-in, president of the Republic of Korea. In the phone call with Khan, Xi said that the top priority of the Chinese government is to fight the disease, and the situation has developed in a positive direction thanks to the great efforts made by medical workers and people across the nation. China is confident of winning the battle against the disease, and it will minimize the e


By China Daily
February 21, 2020