International Alert has launched new guidelines and an online database to promote media freedom in Nepal.
We developed these together with our partner the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) as part of our joint project called Right to Voice: Promoting media freedom of expression in Nepal. The project is reducing the number of threats facing journalists and promoting marginalised voices, which is important given the media sector in Nepal is mainly controlled by elite groups who don’t understand their needs or interests.
The guidelines and database were both unveiled at an event last month, which was attended by journalists, policy-makers, civil society and human rights representatives from Nepal – groups that were all consulted as both tools were developed.
The guidelines will allow the FNJ, who represent up to 10,000 journalists in the country, to identify cases of media rights violations – particularly attacks on journalists and restrictions on freedom of expression. This evidence will be securely stored and analysed in the online database, so trends can be revealed.
There were 56 reported cases of media rights violations in Nepal in 2016 – a figure that is likely to rise this year because of the upcoming local elections. Although this is less than the 149 cases recorded last year, only one such attack can force many more journalists to practice self-censorship, curbing freedom of expression. Indeed our recent survey of 100 journalists found that many feel unsafe doing their job (55%) and have been threatened while working (62%).
Speaking at the launch event, our Acting Country Coordinator for Nepal Rabindra Gurung said that only free, safe and inclusive media can provide a space for all voices to be heard.
“The guidelines and database we have developed with the FNJ will give us a better understanding of the kinds of issues journalists are facing, so we can in turn conduct better advocacy to protect their rights to security and freedom of expression – key tenants of democracy.”
The FNJ President Mahendra Bista also stressed the need to use the new evidence collected to end rising impunity and hold perpetrators to account.
As Andreas Roettger from the Delegation of the European Union to Nepal emphasised at the launch, continued collaboration between the different groups involved in developing both the guidelines and database will be crucial to improving media safety and freedom.