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Nepal introduces repressive directives for online media

This statement was originally published on samsn.ifj.org on 17 June 2016.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliates the Nepal Press Union (NPU) in expressing serious concerns over the recently issued government directives which threaten to undermine press freedom and freedom of expression online in Nepal. The IFJ demands that the Government of Nepal should immediately withdraw the directives.

On June 14, 2016, the Government of Nepal approved the 'Online Media Operations Directives 2015' with includes provisions to disrupt the services of online news sites [based] on arbitrary decisions of the Department of Information (DOI). The conditions under which the DOI can order the blocking of a website include failure to register and renew the website; publication of materials deemed illegal or immoral or 'without authoritative source or creating misconceptions among the public.'

NPU General Secretary Ajay Babu Shiwakti said: “The Directives are an attempt to impose censorship in the media and the government's effort to control the media. The provision to disrupt services contradicts the Constitution of Nepal which states that no media shall be disrupted.”

The NPU also expressed concerns over various other provisions of the Directives, including the obligation to follow the Press Council of Nepal's Code of Conduct, annual renewal of online media and the empowering of the DOI to 'inspect and monitor' online media. “It's not the government's [role] to impose a Code of Conduct on the media but rather [this should emerge from] the media's own self-regulation,” the NPU said. “The Directives are clearly an ill-attempt to exert control over online media. The NPU demands immediate withdrawal of the Directives.”

The IFJ said: “The power to impose arbitrary blocking of news websites goes against the established principles of press freedom and online freedom. The IFJ believes that any laws or regulations that empowers blocking is autocratic in nature and should be immediately withdrawn. The IFJ urges the Nepal government to suspend the directives and work out standard regulations to facilitate the growth of online media in Nepal with concrete discussions with stakeholders.”

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