In line with the constitutional provision, Nepal held all three levels of elections- local, and provincial and federal parliaments, thereby creating a solid foundation to implement the federal set up. The successful conduct of the historic elections is indeed a paradigm shift- a matter of happiness- that has paved way to end political transition in Nepal. Irrespective of the selection of candidacies guided by nepotism and favouratism, the free and fair elections have created hope for change and good governance eluded for long in the country. Other areas that drew equal concern are gross misuse of money, a huge number of invalid votes, arrests of journalists on the run up to the elections and sporadic incidents of explosions.
Owing to the explosions, the media persons’mobility for news coverage was limited and the self-censorship ingrained. The political activities for election campaigning and publicity reached the local levels which were obviously of newsworthy. But the undue influence of political cadres and local leaders for the media to disseminate the news of their favor was sheer intimidation and egregiously against press freedom. Moreover, the number of violations against press freedom grew alarmingly this year, which is a clear indication that the more the political programs and campaigns, the more the intimidation on free press and media persons. Nearly three-fold rise in the number of press freedom violation this year has affected 300 journalists across the country. It has resulted in the growing self-censorship among the journalists.
The detention and harassment of journalists without cogent ground of wrongdoing was condemnable. With the democratic forces subsided by the leftist alliance in the elections, the rising political polarization with the creation of indoctrinated sister organizations is likely to take toll on Nepali media. The politics of negation would grow more that jeopardizes the free and independent role of media. Political culture, attitude, and speech of some leaders of leftist leaders are intended to ignite hatred not only among political parties but also create vertical division among journalists. Although one is free to adopt any of the political ideology he/ she likes, the intimidation on fellow journalists is gross behavior arousing clash and conflict.
Once such attitude is to continue in the days ahead, the democracy, liberalism, civil rights, independence would face hard times. These hard-earned values are an integral part of Nepal’s democracy. It is doubted that ‘socialism gets proper interpretation and the activities follow the suit. The misinterpretation of socialism undoubtedly makes democracy dysfunctional. The stupor of the election victory can be linked somewhere to this end. As a civil society organization, Freedom Forum is aware that the human rights institutions must not be put under vigilance. For the correction of the government affairs, for partnership with the government for people’s cause and good governance, for the protection of citizens’rights including freedom of expression and information, press freedom, for the promotion of participatory governance, for the creation of informed citizenry, Freedom Forum works untiringly.
The recent activities that are trying to shrink the civic space in Nepal must come to an end. The campaign of building an open and transparent society must not be hindered from any sector. For the country to achieve the goal of building good governance, the protection and promotion of freedom of expression and information is prerequisite. Only free and fear-free media can contribute to propelling the democratic values. Intimidation on media with politically indoctrinated values and surveillance on human rights institutions does not suit the democracy. Finally, Freedom Forum wishes every citizen, CSOs, national and international friends and rights activists and campaigners.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!
Source: Free Expression, Issue 40 (October to December 2017)