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Nepal’s press freedom at risk amid restrictive bills, government pressure (Demo)

The following is an excerpt of a 26 December 2019 CPJ blog post by Aliya Iftikhar/CPJ Senior Asia Researcher.

Last year, when Raju Basnet was covering landgrabs in the Nepali city of Lalitpur, he knew he was playing with fire. His reports in the weekly Khojtalas alleged that powerful people, including government officials, were involved in the scheme and Basnet had already received multiple warnings to back off the story. Despite this, Basnet told me when we met in his small, makeshift office on the edge of Kathmandu, he never thought he would be arrested.

However, the day after he republished another outlet’s story on the same issue on his website, authorities detained Basnet for five days under the Electronic Transactions Act, a law purportedly designed to fight cybercrime, but which journalists say is used against reporters who share news or commentary on social media and websites.

“The environment is not journalist friendly,” Basnet said. “The situation is critical now.”

It was a sentiment shared by many of the journalists with whom I met in Kathmandu in October. While they acknowledged that generally the climate had improved since restrictions imposed under the monarchy and later the Maoist insurgency in the 1990s and early 2000s, in the past two years authorities have chipped away at the guarantee of “complete press freedom” included in the new 2015 constitution.

The K.P. Sharma Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal government has proposed several pieces of legislation that undermine the rights laid out in the constitution. Three proposed bills – the Media Council Bill, which recommends reforms to the semi-autonomous Press Council; the Advertisement Regulation Bill, which would make publishers accountable for content in advertisements; and the Information Technology Bill – were flagged as having a negative impact on the press.

Read the full blog post on CPJ’s site.

The post Nepal’s press freedom at risk amid restrictive bills, government pressure appeared first on IFEX.


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