In the wake of increased spate of intimidation on citizen and journalists for exercising freedom of expression and press, the UN rights body- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and national rights watch institution- National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)- showed concern over deteriorating FoE situation in Nepal.

The OHCHR has shown concern over the arrest of people including former bureaucrat for his critical view on government activities and the NHRC stated that incidents of press freedom violations were increased in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal.

Referring to the advocacy and watch by the press freedom groups in Nepal, the UN OHCHR showed alarm over clampdown on freedom of expression.

On June 3 press release, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said, “In Nepal, authorities have used a stringent cyber-crime law to arrest a retired bureaucrat who was critical of the Government including its Covid-19 response. According to press freedom groups, there have been several cases of journalists detained while covering COVID-related news, incidents of journalists facing obstruction from authorities, and reports of threats and physical attacks against journalists.”

The statement issued concerning the Asia-Pacific region made aware the government that any actions taken to stop the spread of false information must be proportionate. “Many countries in the region already have laws governing alleged “fake news” and online media that raise human rights concerns and have been used in other contexts to deter legitimate speech, especially public debate, criticism of government policy and suppress freedom of expression.

It added measures should adhere to the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, serve a legitimate public health objective and should be the “least intrusive” approach required to achieve that result.

Moreover, the NHRC on June 6 issued a long press release stating, “22 media personnel during the state-enforced lockdown who were deployed for collecting news have been arrested, others were attacked, issued threats and insults to journalists.”

It criticized the trend of denial of information to journalists by the public offices and proper remuneration to working journalists, which has forced journalists to quit the profession.

FF Executive Chief Taranath Dahal said the concern shown by both UN OHCHR and NHRC over the current situation of press freedom and freedom of expression and information was apt and timely. It would help government remind of its responsibility to protect citizens fundamental rights -FoE and information- in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

FF has been relentlessly monitoring the FoE and information situation in Nepal despite COVID-19 menace.
As said by the national and UN rights institution, FF reports in the recent years have recorded deteriorating atmosphere of FoE and information.

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