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Participants at IFEX General Meeting express concern over freedom of expression violations

(CEHURDES/IFEX) - The following statement was issued at the IFEX General Meeting held in Brusells, Belgium, 19-24 February 2006, and is endorsed by the signatories below:

Expression of Concern over Freedom of Expression violations in Nepal

We, the undersigned IFEX members and free expression organizations participating in the General Meeting of International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) in Brussels, Belgium, are extremely concerned about the press freedom and freedom of expression situation in Nepal since the royal takeover on 1 February 2005. We have noted with concern the on-going incidences of attacks, threats and detention of Nepalese journalists and free expression activists in the country over the last year.

More than 500 journalists were detained last year by the royal government for protesting the royal regime and demanding press freedom and freedom of expression in the country. The authorities imposed strict censorship during the three-month-long state of emergency (February to April 2005) and there was no marked improvement in the situation after the state of emergency was lifted.

Against this background, we express our wholehearted solidarity with Nepalese journalists and free expression activists in their fight for democracy, human rights and freedom of expression and call upon the royal government of Nepal to:

- Lift all types of restrictions in media including the ban on airing of news by FM radio stations (although radio stations have started airing news following an interim order from the Supreme Court, the ban still persists.)

- Cease all direct and indirect forms of censorship on media.

- Instruct security personnel, especially the Royal Nepalese Army, in clear words to respect freedom of expression and press freedom across the country, with a particular emphasis on the media in the districts outside of Kathmandu.

- Immediately abrogate the controversial Media Ordinance that imposes a number of restrictions on Nepalese media and not to draft or promulgate any new legislation including a Broadcasting Authority or Media Council through ordinances so as to further limit press freedom and freedom of expression. We hold the view that the royal government doesn't have any right to issue new legislations through ordinances at a time when the parliament remains dissolved.

- Investigate cases of threat, manhandling and murder of journalists, harassment of media personnel etc., punish the guilty and provide compensation to the victim journalists or media facilities if their property has been damaged (e.g.: Paschimanchal F.M. that was damaged during a two-way gun battle in Palpa district recently).

- Strictly honour and follow constitutionally guaranteed provisions of press freedom and freedom of expression and international provisions related to freedom of expression contained in UDHR, ICCPR, among others, to which Nepal is a party.

Similarly, we call upon the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) rebels to:
- Respect pluralism and freedom of expression and not to target media personnel and free expression activists under any pretext.

- Not damage, shut down or remove media facilities and infrastructure.

At the same time, we call upon the international community to reaffirm their support to:

- A peaceful pro-democracy movement in Nepal including a movement for the restoration of the constitutionally guaranteed right to press freedom and freedom of expression,

- Pressure the royal government to respect people's right to peaceful assembly and other fundamental rights and return to broad-based and inclusive democracy at the earliest.

Adil Soz
African Free Media Foundation
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRN)
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES)
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES)
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (CENCOS)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ)
Freedom House, USA
Free Media Movement (FMM)
Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP)
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Independent Journalism Centre (IJC), Moldova
Index on Censorship, U.K.
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
IPS Communications Foundation (BIANET), Turkey
Journalists' Trade Union (JuHI)
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia
Media Institute of Southern Africa, MISA
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Norwegian PEN
Observatoire de la Liberté de la Presse, de L'Edition et de la Création (OLPEC), Tunisia
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Thai Journalists Association (TJA)
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)

Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies

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