Freedom Forum recorded a total of 96 press freedom violations during the year,2020. Although the violations’ number declined slightly compared to the previous year (111 in 2019), the country still awaits improvement in press freedom atmosphere.
In the 96 incidents of press freedom violations, 167 journalists including 16 females were directly affected. Of the total incidents recorded in 2020, more than 50% took place during the lockdown imposed in response to Covid-19 pandemic. Silencing of journalists with arrest and detention is most worrying trend of the year. Similarly, intimidation and harassment of journalists for reporting news, the government’s attempt to silence media, suppression of citizen’s right to freedom of expression on social media were equally noticeable.
This year too, the highest numbers of violations were from the Bagmati Province (27) with affected number 34 followed by 18 violations in Province-2 affecting 65 media persons. Province-1 and Lumbini Province witnessed the lowest number of violations.
Among 167 affected, maximum (58) were obstructed from doing reporting followed by 36 each being attacked/ manhandled and threatened while reporting. The data further showed during the year, most of the journalists facing violations were from print media (70) followed by online media (39).
This past year remained bleak in terms of journalists’ financial security. Entire Nepali media industry suffered chain effects of Covid-19 crisis. After the government enforced nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus on March 24, the lockdown had direct bearing on the media sector. The nationwide lockdown brought economic activities to a grinding halt, which resulted in decline of some 80% advertisement to media. It then badly impacted media houses and journalists.
A special report FF prepared stated: radio and television programs went ‘off-air’ and, as if they had no other option, the media owners took a recourse to retrenchment: many journalists and media workers were asked to stay on unpaid leave, denied regular salaries and payment, delayed payment, finally leading to joblessness and resignations.
Journalists stared facing hard times for lack of their modest, yet regular incomes. Even Nepal’s blue-chip media houses – all based in the federal capital of Kathmandu – were suddenly struggling for survival and existence, and then the obvious happened: FM radios and televisions cut down on their news bulletins and program productions while the print reduced number of pages. According to the report, nearly 38% active journalists lost jobs across the country owing to Covid-19.
“Although the number of press freedom violations is declined slightly, the atmosphere for press freedom and citizens’ right to free expression and information did not improve. It is worrying indeed. Continued violations of press freedom with threats and attack on media and journalists will eventually jeopardize Nepal’s
democracy” observed Executive Chief Taranath Dahal.
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