Different literary writers, film producers and directors, representatives from CSOs and journalists have underscored the importance of freedom of expression (FoE) without any hindrance at a dialogue on ‘Art, Creation and FoE’ organized by Freedom Forum in collaboration with Nepal Independent Filmmakers Society on 25th December 2019.

Program Manager at FF, Sanjeeb Ghimire, highlighted the program objective that at a time when the FoE landscape was being assaulted in various fronts including media, literature and film, the program as aimed at discussing the unfolding challenges and pave way to build collaborative atmosphere for obstruction-free FoE atmosphere.

On the occasion, Nepal Independent Filmmakers Society’s Chair Anup Subedi said like media, art and music were also facing unprecedented attack nowadays. Reminding the intimidation to and arrest singer Pashupati Sharma, rappers V10 and Durgesh Thapa, and comedy artist Pranesh Gautam, Chair Subedi said there were many rappers ready to upload their songs on YouTube but withdrew the idea seeing hostile atmosphere. “Pre-censorship has been imposed in film production for long in Nepal,” he shared, adding that merely because of some word, film are banned from screening, producers are hassled.

noted literary writer and Prof Dr Govinda Raj Bhattarai stated that he has put all his efforts on writing. Journalism and music industry are more visible from expression perspectives. Freedom environment is being made but obstructions are also coming. Strings attached with hard-earned freedoms in our country. These days, obstructions are increasing to restrict FoE atmosphere, he added.

“The incumbent government has authoritarian intention. So, we can not expect much from this regime in terms of protecting and promoting freedom. The authoritarian regime has different goals and objectives,” he said, urging all sides concerned to be bold and continue creations.

He however said, “Writers like me are not feeling free and safe to come outside environment and make expressions.”

“Its precarious that crass political cadres are claiming themselves as literary writers. Writers advocating FoE are now feeling sheer discomfort and confined,” he worried.

Adding to the context of FoE, film director Nabin Subba expressed that artists should have the rights to exercise full-fledged FoE then only it the society can move ahead. Film makers should enjoy the freedom without any hesitation and obstruction from anywhere. “We waged two democratic movements but again we are in the situation to fight for FoE. Is’ worrying,” he said, adding, censorship is deepening in film sector, thereby running the spirit of FoE. Being feared or lured, he said, even the senior artists are advocating for censorship.

“Both liberal and illiberal thoughts must be given platform to express,” he said, adding that sometime excessive political correctness is creating problem to depict objective reality.

Referring to the arrest of rapper by police, he vented ire, “It is police’s duty to moral police? Who are police to say good, or bad to anything?” He stressed the need of comprehensive sociological debate and research to determine some is right and wrong, decent and indecent and measure the social development.

Journalist and Poet Sangeet Shrota said that constitution is democratic but actions are reverse. Critical thoughts are not created to watch the government activities. Protesting government-sponsored censorship is weakening.

Manoj Pandit, film maker and director stressed the need of more action than discussion. He reminded the film ‘Greater Nepal’ was banned for screening. ‘Dasdhunga’, another feature film, was controlled, current PM directed to stop screening. Nepal Army blocked ‘Badhshala’ screening. There was long battle. The setting was conflict-era.

Being one of the victims, Pandit sarcastically said that there should be censorship if we believe on pluralism. If majority does not like so censorship is obvious. Our family is guided by censorship and it is reflected in the state mechanisms.

Human rights and FoE are inextricably linked, said noted human rights activist Charan Prasai. He questioned why judiciary is not knocked when FoE is violated? Why this has not become the issue of human rights violation? Why this was not in the understanding framework of HR? If it was understood as HR it would have been addressed earlier. He questioned the role of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and Nepal Bar Association. Prasai observed the FNJ has become as if is the government machinery.

Showing concern on the film and media related bills, Chief Executive at FF, Taranath Dahal, informed that government was restoring the party-less panchayat system of informing government before publishing book. “But, why literary figures, film-makers and creative writers are also not thinking and raising voices against intrusion,” he wondered. Even the political sector needs to become serious towards growing violations of FoE and artistic expression, he added.

Associate Professor at Kathmandu University, Dr Sudhamshu Dahal, observed, “Art and creations are the medium to reflect change in the world. At present, Nepal is suffering emasculation of ideas and thoughts. The widening gap between the ruling generation and young generation is another problem creating hostility to FoE, he added.

Advocate Tanka Aryal said the FoE atmosphere is witnessing adverse atmosphere because of sheer lack of non-cooperation and unity among media, CSOs, internet rights activists.

Moreover, lecturer of mass communications and journalism at RR Campus, Lekhnath Pandey, said the media were gradually losing boldness to question authoritarian trend of government, which has risked Nepal’s democracy. “The government is awarding its toady these days for writing panegyric,” he observed.

It is because of power shifted from politics to media, politicos are meting out injustice to media, according to Dr Sudarshan Dahal, associate professor at Kathmandu University.

The program, held as part of the project, “Civil Society Mutual Accountability Project (CS: MAP)” with the support of FHI360, was attended by 35 participants. Out of 35 participants, there were 10 females in the event.