Freedom of Information Bill in Nepal is Overshadowed by News of Threatened Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the introduction of a Right to Information bill in Nepal, but is concerned over continued threats to journalists’ safety and access to information.

“Free access to information is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, but until the Nepalese government can ensure the safety of its journalists, they still have a long way to go,” IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Information bill passed

Nepal’s interim parliament passed an amended version of the Right to Information bill by unanimous vote in Kathmandu, on July 18.

According to an IFJ affiliate, the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), the bill includes provisions for penalties and compensation if requests for information are not received within 15 days, or if the information provided is false.

The bill requires that an independent National Information Commission be formed to oversee local information departments and officers, who must also publish reports every three months containing information about their services, completed requests and the names of their information officers.

“This is a great win for the Nepalese public and their journalists, who should now be able to access information from various sectors of government, public offices and corporations,” Park said.

Journalist threatened

According to the FNJ, Parshuram Shah, publisher and editor of the Janadharana Weekly, received death threats from staff members of the Siraha District Development Committee (DDC) on July 16 while visiting Siraha, an eastern district of Nepal.

FNJ Sihara Chapter President Dineshwor Gupta said Shah was in Sihara to collect information on a development budget for the 2006-2007 financial year but was threatened by Khyam Mani Kafle, an implementation officer and accountant, while attempting to access the report.

Park said that despite the legislation, efforts to increase access to information in Nepal were being thwarted by local authorities intent on preventing journalists from accessing the truth.

“The Nepalese government must ensure its legislation is not regarded as an empty promise,” Park said.

“Local officials who refuse to uphold and enforce government legislation should be brought to justice, so that journalists and the public can request information without fear of violence,” she said.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries