Nepal introduces repressive directives for online media17 Jun, 2016
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliates the Nepal Press Union (NPU) and the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) in expressing serious concerns over the recently issued government directives which threatens 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, the Government of Nepal approved the ‘Online Media Operations Directives 2015’ with includes provisions to disrupt the services of online news sites on arbitrary decisions of the Department of Information (DOI). The conditions under which the DOI can order the blocking of the website include failure to register and renew the website; publication of materials deemed illegal or immoral or ‘without authoritative source or creating misconceptions among public.’
NPU General Secretary Ajay Babu Shiwakti said: “The Directives are an attempt to impose censorship in media and the government’s effort to control media. The provision to disrupt services contradicts the Constitution of Nepal which states 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 the online media and the empowering of DOI to ‘inspect and monitor’ online media. “It’s not government to impose Code of Conduct on media but rather media’s own self-regulation,” the NPU said. “The Directives is clearly an ill-attempt to exert control over online media. The NPU demands immediate withdrawal of the Directives.”
FNJ general secretary Ujir Magar said: “FNJ believes that they are against ‘freedom of press and expression’ guaranteed by the constitution as well as the established norms and values of free media.”
FNJ also said that they strongly disagreed with Article 11 of the directives under the title ‘restricted to publish and broadcast’ the provision on ‘without having official sources, creating misunderstandings and adverse effect on international relationship’ as well as Article 21 that ultimately allows the government to ‘block any online media or its websites’.
The IFJ said: “The power to impose arbitrary blocking of the news website 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 urge the Nepal government to suspend the directives and work out standard regulations to facilitate growth of online media in Nepal with concrete discussions with stakeholders.”
(Originally published on June 17; Updated on June 21 to include FNJ statement.)