IFJ Joins International Fact Finding and Advocacy Media Mission to Nepal


The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) took part in the International Fact Finding and

Advocacy Mission to Nepal

(also known as the International Media Mission), which visited Nepal from 23

to 27 February 2012 to assess the media freedom situation in the country. The IFJ

was joined by AMARC, ARTICLE 19, Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), Committee

to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International News Safety Institute (INSI),

International Media Support (IMS), International Press Institute (IPI),

Internews, Open Society Foundations (OSF), Reporters sans Frontières (RSF),

South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), South Asia Media Solidarity Network



This is the seventh International Media Mission to Nepal in which

IFJ has participated, starting with a mission in July 2005. Notwithstanding

dramatic improvements following the restoration of democracy in 2006, in recent

years progress in promoting respect for media freedom has stalled.


The International Mission focused on two key areas:

legal and policy reform, and attacks on journalists and the culture of

impunity. Despite the existence of a wide range of law and policy reform needs,

concrete action has been taken in only two areas since April 2006, namely

amendments to the Working Journalists Act, 2051 (1993) and the adoption of the

Right to Information Act, 2064 (2007). While the overall number of attacks on

journalists has declined in recent years, the rate remains unacceptably high

and there is disturbing degree of political protection being afforded to the

perpetrators. Many of those responsible for murdering journalists remain at

large, promoting a culture of impunity and leading to widespread

self-censorship by journalists.


The International Mission is making specific calls for

action in relation to these two priority areas. It is committed to conducting

rigorous follow-up to monitor progress on their implementation and also to

providing support for this. We also invite our partners and other local

stakeholders to work together, and with us, to achieve these goals.


The International Mission has two further priority

concerns. First, implementation of the Working Journalists’ Act remains poor,

even within State media outlets. Security of employment and fair compensation

for working journalists are essential for press freedom and independent,

quality journalism. We call upon media owners and employers to fulfill their

legal obligations under the Working Journalists’ Act by signing secure

employment agreements with journalists and by paying the wages that are set

pursuant to the law. We also call on the Government to fulfil its obligation to

enforce the law where owners and employers do not do so.


Second, the International Mission is concerned with

the growing threats to online freedom of expression and the application of

restrictive regulations to the Internet.


The International Mission calls on relevant actors to

address the following media freedom needs:


I.        Law and

Policy Reform


Strengthening Proposed Constitutional Guarantees

The International

Mission has studied three of the new constitutional proposals, namely for the

freedoms of expression, of the media and of information. We note that, while

relatively strong, the proposed guarantees are actually weaker than those found

in the 1990 Constitution. Furthermore, the current proposals are not fully in

line with international standards. In particular, vague language is used to

describe the permissible restrictions to these rights, which could be abused to

unduly limit them. We call on the Constituent Assembly to review these draft

provisions with a view to further improving them. Several key actors –

including the Prime Minister, the Chairperson and other Members of the

Constituent Assembly, and the political party leaders we met – have agreed to

open up the discussion on these guarantees so as to strengthen them. To support

this process, the International Mission will provide a detailed analysis of

international standards in this area, as well as the ways in which the current

proposals could be improved.


Development of an Inclusive Media Policy

In the course of a bilateral cooperation project,

which includes efforts to transform Radio Nepal into a public service

broadcaster, the Ministry of Information and Communications has published a

draft Media Policy, 2012, on its website. The International Mission recognises

the need, following the adoption of the Constitution, for the development of a

comprehensive, progressive media policy in Nepal, which is non-discriminatory

in relation to all media. However, the current efforts are problematical both

because they failed to involve key players – including the Federation of Nepali

Journalists – in the process and because the substance of the policy is

inadequate, for example because it fails to address key issues such as the need

for independent regulation of broadcasting and protection of freedom on the

Internet. We call on the Ministry of Information and Communications to develop

a new media document, through an inclusive, pluralistic and gender sensitive

consultative process, with a view to producing a policy which fully addresses

the needs of the media in Nepal.

Most of the key stakeholders we met supported this and the Ministry of

Information and Communications made a commitment to do it. To support this

process, the International Mission will prepare an analysis of the draft policy

and work with other stakeholders to ensure a robust consultative process.


Limiting the Scope of Classification of Information

In January 2012, the Government of Nepal issued a

document, purportedly in accordance with the Right to Information Act, but

without conducting any consultations with local stakeholders, listing some 140

categories of secrets and types of information that should not be made public.

These go well beyond what is permitted by the Right to Information Act, as well

as by international standards. Following widespread local protests and a legal

challenge, the Government has postponed implementation of these rules. We call

on the Government to scrap this document and to restart this process, beginning

with consultations with interested stakeholders. If the Government does this,

the International Mission commits to providing relevant support for the



II.      Addressing the Culture of Impunity


The International Mission notes that while there have

been some convictions for attacks on journalists, perpetrators of many of the

most serious crimes remain at large (for example in the cases of Uma Singh,

Birendra Sah and Arun Singhaniya). We call on the Government of Nepal to take

appropriate action to bring the culture of impunity to an end, including by

being fully transparent in relation to the status of investigations into crimes

against journalists. We specifically call on the Government to publish the

findings of the high-level committee that inquired into the killing of J.P.

Joshi and to ensure that political pressures do not derail prosecutions already

launched, including the case of Prakash Thakuri.


In the current hostile environment that prevails in

much of Nepal,

journalists need to know how to protect themselves, while owners and editors

need to be made aware of their duty of care. We recommend the provision of a

sustained safety development training programme, which would build sustainable

local expertise on this issue, and which would cover physical dangers and

trauma awareness, and be gender sensitive.


We also call on relevant stakeholders to set up a

high-level, independent task force with a mandate to take action to address the

culture of impunity, including by carrying out transparent investigations of

serious cases and working with the authorities to ensure that convictions are

secured. In due course, and subject to resources, proactive measures could also

be undertaken, including developing a mechanism for protecting journalists at

risk and a witness protection programme. The precise contours of the task force

still need to be finalised, but we call upon the National Human Rights

Commission, which already has a mandate to investigate human rights abuses, to

play a key role, working with a range of stakeholders, including government.

Many of the key stakeholders we met – including the Commission, several

political parties, victims, and civil society and government representatives –

agree that this is a priority. To support this process, the International

Mission will provide examples and facilitate exchanges to raise awareness of

how similar mechanisms have worked in other countries, and provide support to

bring key stakeholders together to develop the task force.


About the International Mission


The International Mission travelled to Nepal from

23-27 February 2012 at the request of the Federation of Nepali Journalists and

other members of the Nepali media community. The International Mission met with

the Prime Minister, Ministers and the Attorney General, the Chairperson and

other Members of the Constituent Assembly, political party leaders, human

rights bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission and National

Information Commission, donors, and media and civil society organisations. Mission members also visited Janakpur in Dhanusha

District and Biratnagar in Morang District.


The International Mission comprises fifteen

international organisations, including global media associations, freedom of

expression groups, media development organisations and UNESCO. This is the

seventh visit of the International Mission to Nepal, the previous trips being in

July 2005, March 2006, September 2006, January 2008, April 2008 and February



The IFJ and the International Mission thank the

Federation of Nepali Journalists and other organisations involved in preparing

and hosting the visit, acknowledging the importance of close cooperation with

national stakeholders and ensuring a nationally driven process for promoting

press freedom in Nepal.


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0950



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