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IFEX MEMBERS WORK TO GET FREE EXPRESSION WRITTEN IN CONSTITUTION

IFEX members in Nepal are campaigning to ensure that press freedom and freedom of expression are enshrined in the constitution.

Seven months since the Constituent Assembly elections - the monumental day when Nepal elected an assembly to decide the fate of the monarchy and write a new constitution for the country - the process of writing the constitution has not been taken seriously, says the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ).

According to FNJ, a minimum general agreement among the 25 representative parties of the assembly has not been reached due to "minor scuffles and differences of opinions."

On 5 November, day one of a month-long campaign, FNJ submitted a memorandum to the constituent assembly, pressuring it to begin writing the constitution, as well as to enshrine press freedom and freedom of expression as an unchangeable article. The memo has since been handed to the prime minister and other top officials from various parties.

"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," FNJ said in the memo.

The Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), with the support of the IFEX Campaigns Programme and funding from the Finnish media development foundation VIKES, has also been working hard to promote people's participation in the constitution-making process. Since June, it has been broadcasting a radio programme entitled "Swatantra Abhibyakti" (Free Expression) on five FM radio stations in five different regions. Radio is considered one of the best methods to raise people's awareness in mostly-rural Nepal - helping to reach a large audience and "bridging the views of experts and politicians with those of commoners," says CEHURDES.

The campaign takes place amid a backdrop of increasing attacks on media houses and personnel, says FNJ. In one of the latest attacks, the office of "Himal Khabar Patrika" magazine was burned down in Kathmandu.

Visit these links:
- FNJ: http://www.fnjnepal.org/view_detail.php?id=78&
- IFEX Nepal page: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/155/
(19 November 2008)

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