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Concern over Nepal Press Council's attempt to restrict free expression

Freedom Forum is concerned over a decision by the Press Council Nepal, the state-owned media monitoring body, which has directed a television station to stop broadcasting news about a hospital.

On 20 January 2014, in an official statement the Press Council expressed concern over a news story broadcast by Himalaya Television about Chitwan Medical College. The council then asked the station to immediately stop the dissemination of the news report.

The Council's decision is fully against freedom of opinion and expression (Article 12) and rights relating to publication, broadcasting and the press (Article 15), provided by the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007.

Article 15 (a) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007, states, "no publication, broadcasting or printing of any news item, editorial, feature, article or other reading and audio-visual material through any means whatsoever including electronic publication, broadcasting and printing shall be censored." Similarly, paragraph (b) stipulates, "No radio, television, on-line or other form of digital or electronic equipment, press or other means of communication publishing and broadcasting or printing any material shall be closed nor shall registration thereof be canceled by the reason of the publication, broadcasting or printing of such material through any audio, audio-visual or electronic equipment."

Freedom Forum therefore strongly condemns the Council's decision to stop the broadcasting of the news story as this is a breach of press freedom. If the TV station had committed an error in its reporting other legal measures could have been taken but the broadcasting could not be stopped. The decision needs to be corrected.

Journalists barred from taking photos of CA Members' swearing-in ceremony

In a separate incident, on 21 January 2014, the Constituent Assembly (CA) secretariat barred photojournalists from entering the CA gallery and taking photos of the newly elected CA members while they were being administered the oath of office and secrecy.

21 January was the day scheduled for the swearing-in ceremony before the proceedings in the second CA in Nepal.

Freedom Forum expresses concern over this incident, as it has prevented journalists from reporting and breached citizens' rights to access information. The fact that such an incident occurred in the CA gallery, a forum tasked with the drafting of laws, is quite unsuitable and unwelcome. Every government body and office therefore needs to respect journalists' right to free reporting and citizens' right to information.

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