Nepal Politics 
Why 2023 was a bad year for Nepali media, with attacks, arrests & layoffs

SHAYEREE GHOSH/An Awaaz South Asia Special | 15/01/2024

Courtesy: The Kathmandu Post

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Nepal's media has been facing an onslaught of harassment, threats, attacks and arrests despite its apparent vibrancy, with the year 2023 racking up 58 incidents of press violations, according to the Federation of Nepal Journalists (FNJ). Threats and attacks on senior journalists like Rajendra Adhikari, Lankraj Dhamala and Bal Bahadur Thapa, amongst others have exposed the relentless challenges faced by journalists. 

Professional insecurity took centerstage in 2023. The non-implementation of the Working Journalists Act 2006 led to forceful layoffs without the mandated pay and benefits. The FNJ recorded 11 incidents, but resolving them faced limitations, with stakeholders blaming insufficient government intervention and media owners exploiting the absence of clear legal policies.

Despite a seemingly vibrant media landscape, quantitative growth raised concerns about ethical conduct and financial sustainability. Constitutional guarantees of press freedom clashed with laws like the National Penal (Code) Act 2017 and Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) 2008. The government's ban on TikTok and Social Media Directives-2023 further raised concerns about citizens' freedom of expression. The Press Council Nepal (PCN), instead of being an independent body, also became yet another tool of the government and was critical in stifling opposing voices and views.

Nepal's media exhibits growth and constitutional support for press freedom, positioning itself as a leading country in South Asia, however repeated incidents against press freedom create a media echo chamber. This calls for legal reforms, including an urgent need for legislative changes, ensuring independence of media regulatory bodies, and addressing professional insecurities in journalism.

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