Freedom Forum marked World Press Freedom Day 2019 organizing a program on May 2, 2019 in Kathmandu.
The program organized with an objective to create a favorable atmosphere for press freedom as well as to make collective commitment to end the impunity and hostility to media witnessed participation of approximately 100 participants from diverse sectors. Participants were representatives of political parties, human rights defenders, human rights institutes, lawmakers, senior media persons, freedom of expression advocates and activists, government officials, researchers and media.
Initiating the formal program, a podcast based on a year-long monitoring report prepared by FF was released amid the participants. According to the report, as many as 104 anti-press incidents occurred in the country during the period from May 2018 to May 2019 where over 158 journalists were directly affected.
Similarly, the report highlighted that this year’s figure is the highest in six years which obviously paints bleak scenario. The report further predicts ‘Rule by law’ is likely to replace the ‘rule of law’- which would be the biggest source of fear and threat to free and independent journalism, thereby resulting in mounting self-censorship in reporters and minimum investigative reporting. Moreover, efforts to curtail journalists’ rights both in practice and policy are likely to spoil the importance of free press in democracy.
Shading light upon the significance of World Press Freedom Day, Chief Executive Tara Nath Dahal stressed upon the collaborative action among the concerned stakeholders and freedom of expression advocates to ensure rights of freedom of press and expression in practice.
Asserting that impunity has been the biggest challenge for press freedom to thrive Federation of Nepali Journalists Nepal’s Chair Govinda Acharya claimed that those attacking journalists are still walking free. He further expressed FNJ’s commitment to cooperate with the stakeholders to work for press freedom and journalists’ rights. He also informed that FNJ has been reminding political parties about their commitment to press freedom.
Leader of Bibeksheel Nepali, a political party in Nepal Ujjwal Thapa showed concern over growing self-censorship in the country. Referring to the recently published song of Pashupati Sharma ‘Lootna sake loot’ which was subject to self-censorship, he argued that culture of silencing the media is getting stronger so time has come to defend press freedom and freedom of expression. Hence, an extensive network comprising political parties, media, civil society and academia is essential, he opined.
Similarly, Member of Parliament from Rashtriya Janata Party Nepal Brikhesh Chandra Lal argued that press freedom protects freedom of expression hence, its protection is the need of hour. Stating stability must not be against democracy he further questioned the government whether stability meant suppression of media. He also committed to work in favor of press freedom on behalf of his party.
Chief guest at the program, Anup Raj Sharma, Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission’s stated only ‘Full Press Freedom’ in the preamble was not enough, but ‘Proviso’ in fundamental right depicted risk in Nepal. “Not only journalists but also other stakeholders should advocate on issues of press, NHRC is ready to cooperate on it”, he committed.
Lastly, FF’s Chair Hari Binod Adhikari arguing suppressing press is no way acceptable in democracy called upon the concerned authorities to speak up for journalists’ rights and protect democracy.
All the noted speakers voiced solidarity on the protection of journalists’ rights, right to free press and expression. They also committed to cooperate FF in this campaign.