Freedom Forum’s annual media report has showed severe impact of economic downturn in nepali media. The report highlights that slump in advertisement market, shifting advertisements to digital platform and Apps, indifference of government and parliament to law and policy reform, massive retrenchment at media houses, continued intimidation to journalists, muddled management of social media, and spread of mis- and disinformation polluting information ecosystem were featured significantly during the past one year, 2023.

It states that total 52 incidents of press freedom violations occurred in Nepal, where more than 59 journalists including 9 female were directly affected. Compared to the previous year, the number of violation saw a rise with varying nature of violations, to which the report, has mentioned as a worrying trend.

According to the report, Bagmati province tops the violations list, while online journalists are the most targeted among journalists from other forms of media in 2023. Of total 59 journalists affected in different violation incidents, 10 were intimidated through social media. The number 0f attack and manhandle combined stand the highest, 23, which is followed by threat 19. Similarly, 9 journalists were affected with misbehaved while 6 were obstructed from reporting and  two arrested and detained.

Two online media offices and two print media offices were also attacked in different incidents. In these incidents, people barged into the offices and threatened the staff over their investigative and critical media contents.

The report mentions that there was no response from the State agencies to address impunity relating to crimes against journalists in 2023. Similarly, the nation did not experience positive improvement in law and policy reform this year. Although the government has recently released drafts of the National Mass Communication Bill and Media Council Bill on December 21 seeking inputs from the public, whether the recommendations will be addressed in the final bill is yet to be seen, claims the report.

The report also discusses formulation of media-related bills in Bagmati, Gandaki, Lumbini and Koshi provinces.

“The advertisement market dwindled badly, resulting in huge retrenchment in media- curtailment of newspaper pages, massive layoff of staff and journalists, closure of regional media offices, job hopping among journalists are amongst worrying trend observed this year”, asserts the report stating that out of over 4,000 online media running in Nepal, very few are running comfortably. The advertisements are shifted to digital platforms such as Meta and WhatsApp, Viber and others, which are new challenges to both traditional and digital/online media.

The report also quotes one of the FF study as- ‘as high as 100 media outlets from seven provinces have stopped their operation and approximately 243 media persons quit their jobs in 2023′.

Apart from these, digital sphere also faced several challenges this past year 2023 ranging from TikTok ban to blocking of online portals. The report also stress on challenges faced by citizens, media persons and media houses due to spread of misinformation and disinformation online.

Categorization of data on violation of press freedom is significant feature of the annual report. The report further welcomes National Human Rights Commission’s decision to make functional the journalists’ safety mechanism with additional improvements as recommended by the concerned stakeholders.

“The little or no-reporting on people’s problems and governments’ activities owing to financial constraints in media have emboldened government and political parties to suppress media freedoms and co-opt media persons”, is additional observation of the report.

Executive Chief at Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, argued, “The media-related laws and policies are formulated as criminal law which is strictly against Nepal’s constitutional provisions and international human rights standard. The laws must be civil law.”

Dahal further points out the need for boosting advertisement industry and urges the government to distribute the advertisements fairly and proportionally.

Full report can be downloaded here.