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Testimonies from the Field : An Exploration of the State of Press Freedom in Nepal after the singing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ( 3 May 2007 )
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The frequent political changes in the country have created many changes in the field of media in Nepal. Nepal’s people first earned their democratic rights in 1990, and up until this time the Government fully controlled and limited the media sector. There were only a few means of mass communication except the state- owned radio, television, and newspaper. However, the media sector flourished rapidly within a short span of time following the constitutional provision of a more liberal media policy. As a result, many professional print and electronic media emerged in Kathmandu as well as other parts of the country during the 1990's.
These media became popular within a short period, partly because it was still new to the
people even in the late 20th century and in part because these media published and broadcast content that was relevant and interesting to the people. They also facilitated people's rights to information about domestic and international news and issues. The
unprecedented development in mass media was also seen as an effect of globalization and the emerging concept of a free and impartial press.
When the CPN (Maoist) waged the “People's War” in 1996 the newly developed media was faced
with unparalleled hardship. The decade-long war did not only close the doors of all development possibilities but also caused destruction of infrastructure. Worse, this deprived people from enjoying basic civil and political right as the media sector became
a target of all sides in the conflict. Many publication houses were closed while many others were vandalized. A large number of professional journalists were subject to severe psychological pressure, kidnapping and unwarranted arrests. Many media practitioners were displaced due to threats from the security forces and the Maoist guerilla.
The situation deteriorated after king Gyanendra dismissed the elected Government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba and seized absolute power of the country on 1 February 2005. The king imposed strict censorship on the media. Many media houses were forced to shut down while the Government strictly controlled radio, television, telephone, magazines, newspapers, online services, and other means of communication. Ill treatment of journalists continued from both.
Government and non-Government actors. According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), two journalists were killed during the 15-month long direct rule by the king while 11 others were kidnapped. Some 83 journalists were victims of torture. Likewise, altogether 409 Journalists were arrested, 179 were threatened and 55 others were obstructed from carrying out their professional duty. Altogether 55 different houses were forced to shut down their publications and 108 newspapers being published from outside Kathmandu ceased their edition. There were some 250 incidents of arson and vandalism
in media houses and the private residences of journalists during the 15 month period alone.
Despite mounting pressure from both national and international communities to put an end to the violence against media, little progress was made. Then Nepali journalists took to the streets for the cause of press freedom. As an active part of the democratic uprising that took place in April 2006 that eventually forced king Gyanendra to relinquish the
absolute powers he had seized 14 months earlier, the Nepalese media played a key role in
bringing about these seminal changes including restoration of democracy. Recent positive political developments have opened the door for a new democratic process in Nepal. The mass movement of April 2006 led King Gyanandra to give up absolute power and to reopen the Parliament. The November 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has ended a decade of civil war and a Constituent assembly election has been scheduled for 2007. Many people assume that the media is free at last.
UNESCO, Forum of Developement Journalists ,   (2007 )
Type / Script:
Publication in English
Thematic Group:
 UNESCO : Educational, Scientific and Cultural
14.02.02  -  Human Rights
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