Kathmandu: The number of press freedom violations has declined in Nepal compared to the data of the last year, according to a report. However, the number of journalists affected in such cases has seen an uptick.
Releasing an annual report on press freedom recently, Freedom Forum, a civil society organization, said of the affected, 109 are male and 11 female.
It further stated that there was little progress in addressing impunity on crimes against journalists, while the hostility meted out to journalists went abated. “Absence of freedom of expression and press freedom-friendly law and -policy, interference in media by the constitutional body, increased cyber surveillance against media persons, and fake news were major trends observed,” states the report.
The Freedom Forum has categorized the press freedom violations under different categories—arrest, detention, attack, manhandling, obstruction, vandalism, threat to life, and misbehavior.
Last year, 56 cases of obstruction and vandalism were recorded, and 28 cases of attack/manhandling, it said.
Similarly, 18 journalists were misbehaved, while 13 were threatened. Likewise, five journalists were arrested and detained.
The report has also brought forth some cases of intimidation such as keeping in detention a journalist and right to information (RTI) activist Kailash Majhi for four days for his critical reporting about malpractices at the local level government in Saptari.
Digital surveillance and cybercrime against journalists has emerged as a new and alarming threat to Nepali media, according to the report.
Bagmati Province has recorded the highest number of press freedom violations of 44 cases, which is followed by Madhes Province with 42. Likewise, 11 journalists each were the victims of press freedom-related violences in Gandaki and Lumbini provinces.
Last year recorded the least number of journalists affected in Province-1 as it witnessed only two incidents of violations. Karnali Province and Sudurpaschim Province reported seven and three cases, respectively.
The report has welcomed the Janakpurdham High Court’s verdict of life imprisonment to the murder convict of media entrepreneur Arun Singhaniya as a positive update on a long pending case of impunity.
The court issued the verdict on September 21, 2022. The High Court sentenced life imprisonment to the suspended lawmaker and former Minister of State Sanjay Kumar Saha who was proven the mastermind behind the murder.
Singhaniya, the then chairman of Janakpur Today Media Group, was shot dead on March 1, 2010 at Shiva Chowk in Dhanusha district.
Executive Chief at Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, said, “The case of murdered journalists and those who disappeared during the conflict time could be taken to the regular court under criminal offense, rather than transitional justice mechanism, but this demand went unheard this year too.”
Similarly, the problems of disinformation and misinformation have emerged with the rise of digital platforms, Dahal said.