Freedom Forum has been alarmed over interrogation of journalists by the Supreme Court over news on May 25.
Chief Editor at www.imagekhabar.com, Rajan Kuikel, and Editor-In-Chief at www.nepalsamaya.com, Narayan Amrit, were summoned by the Supreme Court on May 25 and interrogated why they published ‘baseless news’.
Chief Editor Kuikel shared with Freedom Forum that the Supreme Court summoned them, arguing that the news they published about the meeting of Prime Minister and Chief Justice was ‘fake and misleading’. “Why did you publish such unverified news? What’s your news source? Why can’t you share with us the news source,” grilled the court when they reached the court on Tuesday afternoon. The court insisted that the news damaged Supreme Court’s image.
Adding further apprehension and panic, the media regulatory body Press Council Nepal issued a letter to editors the same day, seeking clarification over the news contents and source. At a time when the editors have published the Supreme Court’s version along with the news, the misuse of Press Council by the government is upsetting.
These incidents have harassed the journalists and discredited independent media. The intimidation on journalists who are working despite adversity caused by Covid-19 has jeopardized the atmosphere of free press.
To this, Freedom Forum’s Executive Chief Taranath Dahal, commented, “The government has repeatedly been misusing Press Council’s authority to intimidate the independent media and question its credibility. Adoption of legitimate procedures is imperative to verify the news content in case of concern over it. Similarly, interrogation of journalists and asking them for news sources by court officials is worrying and risk journalists’ safety. Free press and independent judiciary are equally important pillars of democratic system. Harmonious relations between them contribute to foster democratic values. FF therefore urges both sides to respect each other. But, it is rare incident in Nepal that Supreme Court intimidated journalists in such way. Similarly, the content regulatory body, Press Council Nepal, needs to protect journalists’ rights rather than issuing order and panicking media repeatedly. All sides are urged for respecting press freedom guaranteed by constitution.”
Moreover, it is the responsibility of editor to protect the news sources while the image of court must not be tarnished by the fake news. Balance in news essential, at the same time, editors have right take stand on news, Mr Dahal added.
While Nepal is suffering worst with coronavirus pandemic lately, the political situation is also messy with repeated dissolution of House of Representatives (HoR) by the government of UML party, which many constitution experts and opposition parties have called an unconstitutional move.
After the Prime Minister KP Oli dissolved HoR lately, the President called the parties for proposing a leader for forming the new government which was also failed with political bickering.
The media carried the news of meeting between PM and Chief Justice in the night after the opposition parties reached Supreme Court on the day, seeking justice and demanding order to appoint opposition leader they proposed as new Prime Minister and restore parliament, arguing PM’s move was unconstitutional.