April 6, 2012
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai
Prime Minister of Nepal
The Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers
By facsimile: + 977 1 4211 086
Dear Prime Minister:
The International Fact Finding and Advocacy Media Mission to Nepal that met with you in February has finished its review of specific provisions from the country’s draft constitution that the Constituent Assembly will finalize by May 28. As one of the groups on the mission, the Committee to Protect Journalists urges you to encourage the assembly to incorporate the group’s recommended changes before the constitution is finalized. The review and recommendations pertain to freedom of expression, the right to information, and freedom of the press.
In a 2011 analysis on Nepal, CPJ noted that political in-fighting has encouraged anti-media attacks, and that a failure to address violence against journalists both before and after the 2006 peace accord has established a deeply entrenched culture of impunity in the country. On the mission, we were encouraged by our interactions with representatives of Nepal’s vibrant press, and by your own express wish to ensure that the constitution holds the strongest possible protections for journalists’ rights.
We also welcome the explicit guarantees of media freedom already included in Article 4 of the draft constitution. However, in its current form, the draft allows potential legal restrictions on the mass media, including censorship of expressions deemed to be treasonous, according to the mission’s review of the draft. CPJ believes these grounds are vague and open to abuse, and we support the mission’s recommendation that the constitution be amended to ban all kinds of censorship. “International law regards any form of prior censorship with the greatest suspicion,” the mission’s review noted (original emphasis).
We urge you, along with party leaders and members of the Constituent Assembly, to comply with the mission’s suggestions for revising these provisions, and thereby strengthen the guarantee of media freedom in accordance with international standards. We further support the mission’s recommendations on freedom of expression and the right to information and believe that adopting all of these changes will create a more transparent environment for the media as well as for Nepal’s fledgling democracy.
Thank you for your consideration.