Freedom forum has conducted number of activities to achieve its objectives of promotion and protection of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and right to information. Major activities among them are listed with brief description.
A. Lobby for Media freedom
In the beginning of its establishment when there was direct regime of King Gyanendra, There was no press freedom in Nepal. At that time numbers of journalists were being arrested illegally, some were being killed and many were being tortured and harassed by the state and then rebel CPN Maoist for involving in their profession independently. Newspapers were being forcefully closed and directly and indirectly censored. At that time Freedom Forum had conducted meetings with stakeholders to form lobby groups. International Media Mission’s secretariat had been established in Freedom Forum for the follow up activities. British Embassy had supported for the program min 2005.
B. Research on Constituent Assembly and Structure of Electoral System
Freedom Forum undertook an in depth study on the Constituent Assembly (CA) and structure of the electoral system. This research aimed to provide insights in to the formation of Constituent Assembly to frame new constitution in many countries of the world at a time when Nepal was ahead of the elections to ensure fresh start in the Nepali political arena. It had also created wide disourse and brainstromed as to which eletoral system best suited the geo-political politics of the country.
The research team had organized focused group discussions with political parties, civil society figures and organizations and election technocrats and also undertaken wide rahnge of literature review on theoretical perspectives of eelction and electroal systems. The study furnished some concrete recommendation on electoral systems for the Constituent Assembly. The study and recommendations had been documented in the form of book. The Enabling State Program (ESP)/DFID had provided fiancnial and technical support to accomplish the task.
C. Dialogue for the Reform of Civil Military Relationship in Nepal
The concept of civil military relationship is an emerging issue in Nepal and the discussion has just begun on what kind of relationship is to be there between civilian control and professional army to enable and consolidate democracy. In this context, Freedom Forum, in association with The Asia Foundation (TAF), had conducted series of discussions in bringing about reforms in civil military relations in Nepal in Kartik 2063. Three discussion programs were held in Kathmandu, Biratnagar, and Nepalgunj in this connection.
The purpose of Freedom Forum – The Asia Foundation in this project was to initiate an informed consultative process on the legal and political reform of Nepal’s civil – military relations. Based on the Legal Analysis Report that explored the 1990 constitution, relevant laws, and other regulatory and policy instruments that govern civil-military relations in Nepal, as well as the review of the then promulgated new Interim constitution, Freedom Forum conducted its programs, inviting key actors and opinion makers from the political parties, military, media, legal community, academia as well as the civil society.
The civil military relationship (CMR) seminars had been able to promote logical dialogue and debate to help the security agencies as well as the civil societies realize the appropriate relationship in the changed context. The programme was conducted in the backdrop of when the century-long Monarchy was toppled and new democratic values waved the country.
D. Strengthening Media through Legal Support
Freedom Forum had implemented a ‘Strengthening Media though Legal Support Project’ from Shrawan 2063 to with financial and technical support from DanidaHUGOU. Providing legal support to media and media practitioner in course of litigation, study on media laws and policies for media reforms and capacity building programs for mid-career journalists were some of the main components of this project. The duration of this project was twenty six months including the time extension of four months.
E. Media and Social Inclusion
Freedom Forum initiated this project with the aim of supporting social inclusion to articulate the role of media for promoting social representation. The major thrust of the project was to enoucrage journalists to work in the field of social inclusion and bring the agendas of social inclusion into public disourse through media. The media inclusion project initiated on 15 July 2006 revolved around the issues of social inclusion and media.
The main objectives of the project were to identify the role of media in the process of social inclusion, sensitize media practitioners about their role as the agent for social inclusion, promote the concept of inclusion on democracy among stakeholders and identify the agenda for social inclusion and the process for implementation. Similarly, dissemination of ideas through publication and support to journalists for in-depth analytical reporting on the issues of social inclusion by providing fellowship were also the focus of the project.
This program had helped spread awareness and empower different target groups directly and indirectly and supported the process of strengthening democracy as well..
F. Dialogue for Democracy
F.i. Discussion in Kathmandu
The “Dialogue to determine National Agenda for social Inclusion” was initiated by the Freedom Forum in the beginning of 2006. Freedom Forum, for the first time, had started politico-development dialogue in Nepal putting greater attention to the inclusion procedure and mechanism through theoretical and applied perspective.
The main objective of this program was to provide space for setting national agendas for social inclusion and inclusive democracy. Another objective of this program was to sensitize people about the agendas and issues of inclusion. The program was initiated with the support of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC/HELVATAS, ESP/DFID, ActionAid Nepal and SNV-Nepal.
F.II. Local Discussion Programs
Freedom Forum had organized ten local discussion programs on “Inclusive Democracy and Constituent Assembly Elections” in different parts of the country during the years from 2006 to 2008.
The program was part of the Forum’s action plan to diversity its ‘Dialogue for Democracy’ series which sought to make people aware about the need to ensure better social inclusion in governance system. The discussion aimed at sensitizing people from various walks of life about the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections and exploring ways to ensure maximum social inclusion.
G. Study on the role of Media in the Madhesh Movement
Freedom Forum launched a study program to explore the role of media in the Madhesh Movement in march-April, 2007. After having monitored the trends of attacks on media during the Madhesh movement, it was realized a need to explore reasons behind such trends. The study was carried out with technical backstopping from Nepal Press Institute (NPI) and financial support from the USAID Nepal. The major objectives of the research were as follows.
• To provide inputs to the Nepali media to make it more impartial, unbiased, inclusive and pluralistic;
• To strengthen media so that it can positively contribute to the peace building process; and
• To ensure a peaceful and stable Nepal
H. Campaign for Right to Information
Freedom Forum and ICIMOD Nepal jointly initiated the National Campaign on Right to Information from Mangshir 2064. Freedom Forum organized two-day regional workshop on Right to Information in all five development regions of Nepal followed by a national seminar in Kathmandu valley. Regional workshops were held in Biratnagar, Birgunj, Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi during the Magh 2063 to Jestha 2064.
The major thrust of the seminar\workshops was to spread public awareness on ‘Right to Information’ to all people and building positive pressure on the government for introducing an appropriate and effective ‘Right to Information Law’ in Nepal.
The workshops promoted RTI awareness nationwide and provided recommendations for right to information law. Freedom Forum without hesitation can claim that enactment of RTI Act was the outcome of leading role and consistent efforts of Freedom Forum. The Forum had put several efforts with regard to the implementation of RTI Act and the disclosure of information of public interest. Under the campaign of promoting information culture in Nepal, Freedom Forum facilitated process in registering application to seek information from the public bodies in consistent with RTI Act.
I. Enhancing Free and Fair Election through Civic Monitoring
Freedom Forum had engaged its efforts in the monitoring of Constituent Assembly (CA) elections. It is a founder member of National Election Monitoring Alliance (NEMA). NEMA is a loose and wide network of 14 civil society organization formed to monitor the upcoming election of constituent assembly. Altogether 1500 observer were involved in the election including long term and short term observer. The monitoring was found highly successful and worthwhile for the purpose to make election free and fair.
As a resource hub of Election Politics, Freedom Forum is runnig a web portal www.nepalelectionchannel.org.
J. Promotion of freedom of Expression in Nepal
Freedom forum conducted some thematic workshops, some meetings with CA members and some with different stakeholders for promotion and protection of freedom of expression (press freedom, freedom of opinion and right to information) in support of FCO in partnership with Federation of Nepali Journalists and ARTICLE19. Media policy changes and incidents of press freedom violation were monitored a component of the project. The programs were run during 2008/09. freedom Forum prepared 6 Audio PSAs and broadcasted through 60 Radio Stations for two months and one TV PSA prepared and broadcasted through 3 Television channels. Freedom forum annually releases media monitoring report on the occasion of world press freedom day (May3). freedom1 forum continued the publication of annual reports of media monitoring and published the highlights through national dailies. USAID/OTI supported for the programs related to world press freedom day.
In partnership with IPI Nepal freedom Forum awarded journalists with courageous journalists award to CK Lal and Avi Subedi in 2007, Damodar Neupane in 2008 and Kabita Sharma in 2009. Mr. Brij Kumar Yadav has been selected for award this year but it is yet to handover. No donor supports for the award award.
K. Promotion of Universal Declaration of Democracy (UDD)
freedom1 Forum, for the first time in Nepal, started debate on universal declaration of democracy UDD). To build common understanding on democracy and making democratic and peaceful society, Forum organized 31 training programs one discussion with stakeholders and a training of trainers (TOT) on UDD. Twenty six radio programs were also produced and broadcasted through 30 radio stations nationwide. The trainings were provided to the youths and students affiliated with different political parties. The radio programs had been produced on different themes of democracy highlighted on article 1-27 of UDD. USAID/NTI had supported for the program during the period between December, 2008 to April 2010.
L. Public Fainancial Management/ Aid Transparency
Freedom Forum successfully completed the biennial Open Budget Survey 2010 and 2012 for Nepal in collaboration with the International Budget Partnership (IBP). The IBP collaborates with civil society around the world to use budget analysis as a tool to improve effective governance and reduce poverty. Likewise, the Forum had produced and disseminated four handy books on budget as a part of its campaign to empower civil society organizations across the country on critical public finance management issues. The publication was meant for presenting the process involved in four phase of budget cycle including formulation, enactment, execution and audit in a simplified version to encourage citizens to participate in budget monitoring process.
With the objective of assessing the aid transparency and accountability situation amongst a sample of leading donor agencies in Nepal, Freedom Forum has recently undertaken a study in this respect. A report entitled ‘Aid Transparency Situation in Nepal’ was brought out to make wide discourse on aid governance in Nepal. The study project was a part of the collaboration between Freedom Forum and AidInfo programme at Development Initiatives in the United Kingdom. Amongst the sampled donors agencies were World Bank, ADB, USAID, DFID, JICA, Norwegian Embassy and UNDP and their project office in Chitwan and Dolakha. The study has revealed some interesting facts on aid transparency situation in Nepal.
Likewise, the Forum also undertook a media content research on aid transparency and accountability on the basis of major broadsheet dailies of Nepal over a period of six months. The report identified a lack of critical analysis in Nepali media on the issues of aid transparency and accountability