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PARLIAMENT PASSES RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL

IFEX's Nepalese members the Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES) and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomed the Parliament-Legislature's unanimous passage of the Right to Information bill on 18 July.

The law, which guarantees every Nepali citizen the right to access information from any sector, includes provisions for penalties and compensation (1,000 to 25,000 Rupees - US$15 to US$388) if requests for information are not answered within 15 days or if the information provided is false.

The bill requires that an independent National Information Commission be formed to oversee local information departments and officers, which must also publish reports about their services, completed requests, as well as the names of their information officers every three months.

IFJ says that despite the legislation, efforts to increase access to information in Nepal are being thwarted by continued threats to journalists' safety. "Free access to information is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, but until the Nepalese government can ensure the safety of its journalists, they still have a long way to go," IFJ says.

Just last week, Parshuram Shah, publisher and editor of "Janadharana Weekly", received death threats from local authorities in Siraha, an eastern district of Nepal, for trying to collect budget information. A Kanchanpur-based journalist, Prakash Singh Thakuri, has been missing since 5 July. A group calling itself the National Republican Army Nepal has claimed they abducted and killed him for his pro-monarchy activities.

"Immediate attention should be given to the Nepalese media, who are constantly being threatened from both authoritative and vigilante groups on a daily basis," IFJ says.

Visit these links:
- CEHURDES: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/84970/
- FNJ: http://www.fnjnepal.org/release_detail.php?id=51
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?index=5143&Language=EN
- "IFJ Concerned over Continuing Attacks on Journalists in Nepal": http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?index=5127&Language=EN
(24 July 2007)

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