06.05.2019 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Press release: Nepal marks World Press Freedom Day

© L. P. Ngakhusi

Upholding the freedom of press in the age of the internet — that has witnessed newer risks of misinformation and fake news — is critical to ensure a just, peaceful and prosperous Nepal, government officials, journalists, civil society leaders and representatives of international development partners observed as they join hands to mark the World Press Freedom Day in Kathmandu.

Addressing the programme, Minister for Communication, Information and Technology Gokul Prasad Banskota said the sacrifices of journalists in the pastdemocratic movements and their professionalism always reminded the government about the importance of full press freedom to achieve peace and stability in Nepal. 

“2019 will be the year to safeguard dignity and security of the journalists,” said Minister Banskota stressing on the need for promoting a more responsible and professional journalism. He also said the government is in the process of making new laws in consultation with the journalists. 

The one-day conference was jointly organized by Federation of Nepali Journalists in coordination with Election Commission, government of Nepal, European Union, UNESCO and UNDP, South Asia Press Freedom Report of International federation of Journalists. 

Newly appointed Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya highlighted the importance of the media in the successful conduction of elections. “All three tiers of government should work in together for the promotion of media’s role during elections,” he said addressing the program organized under the theme “Media for Democracy and Peace: Journalism and Elections in the Age of the Internet.” 

UN Resident Coordinator Valarie Julliand said transparent and reliable press would ensure better governance. “If the press is not free we are not free. Free press is essential for justice, for peace and sustainable development and for the enjoyment of human rights,” she said. 

British ambassador to Nepal Richard Morrison said press freedom not only works as a symptom of democracy it can also work to ensure the accountability for improvement of public service. 

EU Ambassador to Nepal Veronica Cody stated that disinformation has a high potential to negatively influence democratic processes and public debates.

During the program, an Annual Press Freedom Report published by FNJ was also launched. According to the report, since May 4, 2018 there were 60 instances of press freedom violations, the majority of them being attacks, threats, misconduct and arrests.  

“More than 77 journalists and five media houses faced criminal cases and harassments for alleged violations of the Electronic Transaction Act,” said GovindaAcharya, FNJ Chairperson calling on increased efforts to ensure safety of journalists and freedom of press. 

The programme saw several deliberations at the inaugural session and six thematic panel discussions over the day. Former Chief Election Commissioner BhojrajPokhrel facilitated a panel on ‘new opportunities and challenges for the integrity of Nepal’s elections in the digital age’ and media expert Binod Bhattarai facilitated another panel on “media and its role in supporting peace and democracy.”   

Similarly, other panels included ‘voter education through mass media’ facilitated by former Chief Election Commissioner Neelkantha Uprety, ‘social media policies and practices’ by social media researcher Ujjwal Acharya, ‘digital media-portrayal of gender and social inclusion’ by former Election Commissioner Ila Sharma, and ‘media policies conducive to peace and democracy’ by media expert Babita Basnet. 

During the function three senior journalists – former President of FNJ Dharmendra Jha, pioneer of radio in Nepal Gopal Guragain and former Chairperson of Working Women Journalists Sangita Lama were honoured with the “Press Freedom Fighter” award. 

More than 250 participants from different media and media related organisations, Election Commission, universities and development organizations participated the event.  

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