Participants at a Program “Collaboration for Realization of SDG 16.10” held on October 11 in Kathmandu.

Freedom Forum held a discussion on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 16.10 (1 and 2) where the government officials realized the issues of safety of journalists and access to information of SDG Goal 16.10 were ignored while developing national baseline and targets.

The realization came at a dialogue programme titled ‘Collaboration for Realizing SDGs Goal 16.10’ that brought together diverse stakeholders ranging from Chief Information Commissioner, government officials, CSO representatives, media fraternity, freedom of expression and access to information activists.

On the occasion, various speakers urged the National Planning Commission (NPC), an apex government body for formulate national plans, to acknowledge the role of press freedom and access to information as the development pillar.

During the programme held in the capital city Wednesday, the speakers reminded the NPC that it could link the issues of safety of journalists and access to information to the sustainable development goals, as the free press is the booster to other aspects of development.

Reminding the phenomenal concept of development as freedom forwarded by Nobel Prize winner Dr Amartya Sen, Freedom Forum policy advisor and journalist Krishna Sapkota, said wiping out shackles of un-freedoms would help ensure development, where the media and information issues need to be mainstreamed into the national plan, policy and programme.

He made a presentation on how the SDG 16.10 (1.2.) could be realized forging collaboration among stakeholders. A common mechanism could be forged to leverage the campaign of addressing access to information and free press in order to meet the SDG 16.10 (1.2.)
From right: MOIC’s Under Secretary Rudra Devi Sharma, Chief Guest Krishna Hari Baskota, Executive Chief Taranath Dahal and Chairperson Hari Binod Adhikari

On the occasion, Chief Information Commissioner Krishna Hari Baskota, also the Chief Guest of the programme, said the National Information Commission was ready to take ahead the campaign to press the NPC on developing disaggregated baseline of access to information.

Executive Chief of Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, said Nepal was yet to take the press freedom and access to information as a significant aspect of development and transformation. Wider stakeholders including the NPC should work for realizing the SDG 16.10. (1.2.).

Clear national baseline of indicators and targets of Goal 16.10 (1 and 2) should be prepared to realize this goal, he said, adding that CSO-government partnership is imperative for this. “A national advocacy plan and separate working groups on safety of journalists and access to information should be devised to develop the baseline of the indicators through the progress can be monitored and future reforms actions recommended”, he added.

Under Secretary at Ministry of Information and Communications, Rudra Devi Sharma, said, “We’ve realized the need of our role on achieving SDG 16.10 (1.2.). The Ministry is ready to cooperate with the collaboration of stakeholders on realizing this goal.”

Similarly, Vice-Chairman of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, Bipul Pokhrel, said although press freedom is constitutionally guaranteed, the atmosphere for free press is yet to be bolstered in Nepal.

“Only strong media can help realize other goals. Improvement of press freedom should be included in the plans the NPC makes,” he stressed.

Freedom Forum Chairperson Hari Binod Adhikari presided over the programme where Deputy Director General of Department of Information Suman Bajracharya, senior journalist Hasta Gurung, Media Action Nepal Chairperson Laxman Dutta Pant and Anil Upadhyay from NGO Federation aired their views.

The program held as part of the program “Support to Enable Environment for Free, Accountable and Sustainable Media in Nepal (SEFAS)”, supported by Free Press Unlimited; was attended by 32 participants.