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Enshrine press freedom and freedom of expression in the constitution, says FNJ

(FNJ/IFEX) - The following is a 5 November 2008 FNJ press release:

FNJ submitted memorandum to Constituent Assembly Chairman

On 5 November 2008, a Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) team, led by FNJ president Dharmenda Jha, met Constituent Assembly (CA) Chairman Subash Nemwang at his office at Singa Durbar, Kathmandu. The meeting was scheduled as an initial step in FNJ's nationwide programme to pressure the Constituent Assembly to begin the process of writing the constitution in a timely manner, as well as to enshrine press freedom and freedom of expression in the constitution. During the meeting, Jha also presented a memorandum with the same demands.

The following is a translated version of the memorandum:

November 5, 2008

Honourable Chairman,
Constituent Assembly Secretariat
Singh Durbar, Kathmandu
Sub: Memorandum

The FNJ has played a significant role in every freedom movement since its establishment. In this regard, the role that the FNJ played during the people's democratic movement in 2005/2006 is well known.

Although seven months have passed since the completion of the historic Constituent Assembly (CA) election, the process of writing the constitution has not yet begun. The government and the representative parties of the CA do not seem serious about the process of drafting a constitution. Political parties, professional organisations and all sectors of society play equally crucial roles in the campaign to draft the constitution, so certainly Nepalese journalists will also have an essential role to play.

The CA's major task is to draft a new constitution within two years. But an initial minimum general agreement among 25 representative parties of the CA has not been reached on the process of drafting the constitution yet. People are disappointed due to the parties' failure to agree. FNJ believes that the representative parties of the CA have to forget their minor scuffles and differences of opinions and be ready and responsible to fulfill the mandate that the people gave them in the CA election. At present, FNJ also considers that the constitution-making process has been delayed. FNJ requests that the parties show their readiness for a political coalition and agreement and meet immediately to begin writing the constitution.

We feel proud at this moment to recall that FNJ is the first professional organisation to take a formal position that Nepal should be declared a republican nation. After the federation's formal decision in support of republicanism, other sectors of society also openly supported it. Thus, the federation believes that it is also the responsibility of Nepalese journalists to institutionalise federal democratic republicanism.

FNJ has said from the beginning that press freedom and freedom of expression should be enshrined in the new constitution. Without press freedom, citizens' freedoms cannot be respected. FNJ believes that the new constitution will prove to be a milestone that will make the people fully sovereign. Therefore, FNJ urges the CA, via the honourable CA chairman, to start the constitution-writing process without delay and to enshrine press freedom and freedom of expression in an unchangeable article in the constitution. With this memorandum, FNJ also wants to inform that it will organise, along with political parties and civil society, a nationwide programme from 5 to 30 November to pressure the CA to begin the constitution-writing process without delay.

CC: Honourable Prime Minister
Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
Singha Durbar, Kathmandu

All the 25 parties representing the Constituent Assembly
Office of Constituent Assembly parties
Singha Durbar, Kathmandu.

President Dharmendra Jha

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