18.08.2014 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Stakeholders emphasize on a separate law for protection of journalists

© Bimal Chandra Sharma/INSEC -Inaugural session of the sensitization workshop on safety of journalists with state agencies

The UNESCO Office in Kathmandu in association with the International Media Support and Informal Sector Service Centre organized a three day long national workshop on role of state agencies in protecting journalists and promoting freedom of expression. The event was organized under the UNPFN / UNESCO Project Increasing the Safety of Journalists from 13 to 15 August in Nagarkot.

The workshop was organized to sensitize the authorities on media freedom inclusive of publication and broadcasting rights, right to information, freedom of expression and opinion, and norms and values of professional journalism and to discuss the existing legal measures, case-laws and the state of implementation of the legislations regarding the safety of journalists.

Speaking at the opening session of the workshop, Christian Manhart, UNESCO representative to Nepal and the head of the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu said, “Freedom of expression is a crucial element for the development of democracy. It is a universal right to be enjoyed by all. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion; this right includes freedom to speak and write freely and to receive information and ideas through any media, as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Journalists, through their mandate to inform and to play the role of watchdogs, are the main intermediaries to provide access to information. Therefore, the creation of conditions for them to exercise their profession free from pressure, intimidation and physical threats is essential, he added.

Mahendra Bista, President of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) stressed on the need for separate mechanism for the protection of the journalists claiming that the constant attacks on the journalists were due to impunity. Advocate Hari Phunyal stressed on the importance of the freedom of expression and security of the journalists. Recalling that freedom of expression was a fundamental right, Phunyal said that the state had a role in scribes’ security and ensuring their right to freedom of expression.

Six separate presentations each on safety of media workers, freedom of expression and opinion,  norms and values of professional journalism, free press and the cyber laws, relationship between media and the judiciary and the role of state agencies in protecting journalists were made in the workshop.    

During the workshop Laxman Datt Pant, Project Coordinator of the UNPFN/UNESCO project “Increasing the Safety of Journalists”, highlighted the project activities, interventions and challenges with a presentation on safety of media workers in Nepal. Administrative Court Chairperson Kashiraj Dahal said that the state carries out the role of protector a media as it was its fourth organ. He expressed that all rights are shadowed until the freedom of expression is guaranteed.

In the workshop Kundan Aryal, a senior journalist stressed on the need of safety of journalists saying that attacks against them are continuing. Binod Bhattarai of International Media Support (IMS) stressed on the need for discussion and understanding between stakeholders as the implementation part of the existing laws is weak.

DSP Manoj KC of the Crime Investigation Department of Nepal Police said that the police needed to get into the depth of the incident to investigate incidents concerning attacks on journalists. It is necessary to be aware of the freedom of expression as attacks on journalists occur mostly when state agencies are weak, he added.   Judge Narishwar Bhandari of the Kathmandu district court said that democracy would be strengthened if there is a good relation between media and judiciary. He added that it is necessary to make the information mechanism effective to build 'public confidence'.

Speaking at the closing session of the workshop, Subodh Raj Pyakurel, Chairperson of INSEC said, “All sides including journalists, police, prosecutors and judges should be made responsible to ensure safety of journalists and freedom of expression. The journalists are at risk for their weaknesses in lack of information, he added.

Participants of the workshop emphasized on the need for a separate law regarding safety of journalists, capacity building of journalists through workshop, interaction by setting minimum standard for journalists, end of  impunity, proper implementation of journalists code of ethics, sharing of information between investigating bodies and journalists regarding safety, among others. A total of 25 police officers, prosecutors and judges from Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Kathmandu districts participated in the workshop.

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