Nepal

 

  • Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.

     

  • Closure of Himal magazine part of ongoing onslaught on free expression in the South Asia region

    CIVICUS speaks to Aunohita Mojumdar the editor of Himal Southasian, a review magazine of politics and culture based in Nepal and run by the not-for-profit Southasia Trust. Aunohita Mojumdar speaks on the suspension of the magazine from publishing and freedom of expression in the region. She has spent 25 years reporting from parts of South Asia. Before arriving in Kathmandu in 2012, Mojumdar was based in Kabul, Afghanistan for eight years as a freelancer. She is currently working for the re-launch of the suspended magazine

    1. Please tell us about Himal Southasian and what makes it unique?
    Himal is unique in a number of ways. It has a regional outlook, covering the whole of Southasia; it functions as a bridge between academia and journalism by making in-depth reporting and research accessible to a wider audience; and it challenges the jingoism and ultra-nationalism that obstructs a clear-eyed view of the region and its challenges.

    Though the South Asian region has strong independent media outlets, reportage and analysis are invariably dominated by the national perspective, whether it is in the selection of issues the media covers or the manner in which issues are reported. The hostile rhetoric strengthens the confrontational postures based on jingoism rather than fact-based discourse and debate. As evident in the coverage of Indo-Pak issues. Reporting is also overwhelmingly event-based reporting and Himal has been unique in the kind of context it provides, thus answering the critical question of journalism that is often ignored – the why.

    Though significant path-breaking scholarship exists in the region, much of this remains confined to academic texts which remain inaccessible to a wider audience because of stilted jargon or language. Himal seeks to bring this scholarship into the public domain on the premise that informed debate and discourse is a necessary element of democracy.

    Despite the rise of ultra-nationalism, most media are unwilling to undertake critical reporting on this issue for fear of being branded as being anti-national. Himal’s contribution in this of expanding the scope for debate and discourse on this is well-established, a recent example being the controversy over Himal’s signature map. (See map is pictured above. Readers note, the map is rotated intentionally by the editors of Himal to reconceptualise regionalism and put a focus on people and not nation-states).

    2. Himal Southasian has been forced to cease its operations due to bureaucratic reasons. Could you shed some light as to what happened?
    Small organisations are sometimes challenged by the lack of money, staff, professionalism or administrative weaknesses. It is worth mentioning that Himal has met all these challenges and risen above them. The magazine’s suspension in November 2016 was caused by a new but growing expression of intolerance which uses bureaucracy to silence individuals and organisations which are troublesome to regimes, governments and states.

    Often this tactic is through investigations, never-ending and ambiguous, and it is the process rather than the outcome which kills. In the case of Himal the method was even simpler. Himal was never investigated nor even questioned. The simple expedient of withholding permission for us to use our grants and to secure work visas for our staff as well as a slow-down of other regulatory processes paralysed our functioning.
    These methods clearly work much better than direct censorship or attacks, both because there is no obvious attack and it is long drawn and because it is nearly impossible to mobilise public opinion on it. The low-level but high-value attrition of these methods is making them an increasingly popular form of clamping down on civil society.

    3. How would you characterise the environment for civil society in Nepal? Is freedom of expression respected?
    As a non-Nepali I cannot hope to speak to the entirety of the situation in Nepal but our experience suggests that there is a high degree of self-censorship. Very few civil society groups spoke out on our behalf after the suspension and even some media organisations whose mandate is the protection of journalists have been reluctant to speak out, let alone other media outlets.

    4. Are you hopeful about the future of freedom of expression in South Asia? Is it being respected at present?
    Freedom of expression throughout Southasia is facing a major challenge and in fact our last issue published out of Nepal documents the shrinking space in almost the entire region with a few exceptions. There are multiple challenges to freedom of expression. We have increasingly intolerant governments, which are using direct or indirect means to curb media and civil society. We have vigilante groups who are carrying out violent attacks on writers and journalists who are either being actively encouraged by the governments or are encouraged by the impunity the government inaction offers.

    Governments are also using more sophisticated methods of control detailed earlier. In fact the challenge to Himal has made us aware of the extent of control exercised on routine functions. There is nothing, for example, in the rules and procedures which force the Nepal government to either give permission or show cause why the permission is being withheld. We see similar actions against NGOs in India where a large number of organisations critical of the government are losing the permission to operate or losing the ability to accept grants. Many non-commercial organisations rely on grants for their function and the reasons to deny them the permission appears arbitrary, linked not to their performance but to their perceived opposition to the government.

    Even where media are not directly attacked, the corporatisation of media has led to media reporting more and more on selective subjects catering to audiences with purchasing power. As media emerge more as carriers for advertising they are required to create a feel-good audience for their readers, leaving out the vast majority of the citizens who do not have the purchasing power to drive advertising spend.
    Self-censorship is being exercised by the media to avoid any confrontation that could damage the corporate interests while the profit motive of media companies has taken away resources from the actual task of journalism.

    While the trends in Southasia are not very different from global trends, the weak rule of law and poor governance in Southasian countries poses additional challenges and is a threat to the small number of independent outlets that exist.

    5. How can international and regional civil society support you in carrying out your mandate?
    With increasingly complex and sophisticated threats emerging to the survival of independent media, the support structures and strategies also need to evolve. While there are robust processes in place to provide safe havens to activists who are threatened, to relocate them in exile, there are few processes in place for supporting activists and organisations who wish to remain in situ and work. There are few processes to support organisations who may not be physically at risk but whose work is being threatened or compromised. There are absolutely no initiatives which are examining and questioning the new methodologies of attack where organisations and individuals are being targeted by financial investigations even though there is, by now, a pattern of such victimisation.

    In our case for example it would have helped if there had been questions asked of the government on the refusal to process permissions. Indeed given the suspension of Himal and the closure of its offices in Nepal after nearly 30 years of public service journalism such questions could still be asked so that governments know they will be held accountable.

    While Himal remains ready to resume its editorial work as soon as it is able, it is currently seeking to establish the administrative and financial structures that will allow it to function. Support that would enable this would be welcome.

    About Himal: Himal Southasian, a review magazine of politics and culture, is the only regional magazine of its kind. Stretching from Afghanistan to Burma, from Tibet to the Maldives, this region of more than 1.4 billion people shares great swathes of interlocking geography, culture and history. Yet today neighbouring countries can barely talk to one another, much less speak in a common voice. For over three decades, Himal Southasian has strived to define, nurture, and amplify that voice.

    Civic space in Nepal is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Follow Himal on twitter at @Himalistan. Visit the website of Himal at http://himalmag.com

     

  • Country recommendations for UN Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    All UN member states have their human rights records reviewed every 4.5 years.  CIVICUS  and partners make UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space in Australia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, and Rwanda

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 7 countries in advance of the 37th UPR session (January 2021). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

    AustraliaThis submission raises alarm over the increasing criminalisation of climate and environmental movements and defenders, including Indigenous peoples, scientists, student strikers and environmental organisations, in the wake of Australia’s recent bushfires. It further discusses the unwarranted restrictions on media freedoms due, in large part, to an increase in police raids on independent media outlets. Moreover, its expresses concern over recent attempts to silence whistle-blowers who reveal government wrongdoing under the Intelligence Services Act.

    Lebanon In its submission CIVICUS, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, International Media Support (IMS), Social Media Exchange (SMEX) examine how the  government has persistently failed to address the brutal and violent dispersal of peaceful protests, the arrest and prosecution of journalists and protesters and restrictions on the activities of CSOs advocating for women’s and LGBTQI+ rights. It also discusses legal and extra-legal restrictions on the freedom of association and, in particular, the systematic targeting of associations and activities by the LGBTQI+ community. Moreover, it assesses the continued deterioration of the freedom of expression, as highlighted by the increase in judicial proceedings against media outlets critical of the authorities, threats to digital rights, raids and attacks by security forces and sometimes by members of the public on media outlets.

    Mauritania (FR) CIVICUS and Réseau Ouest-Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains/ West African Human Rights Defenders Network (ROADDH / WAHRDN) demonstrates that since its last review, the Government of Mauritania has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space. Instead, civic space in Mauritania remains repressed, and civil society actors, especially those working on anti-slavery campaigns and seeking to end racial and ethnic discrimination are frequently targeted and intimidated by the state. Civil society actors face legal and practical barriers to exercising their rights to association and peacefully assembly, which is hampered by the 1964 Law on Associations and Law No. 73-008 on Public Assemblies.

    Myanmar The submission by CIVICUS, Free Expression Myanmar and Asia Democracy Network highlights the use of an array of unwarrantedly restrictive laws to arrest and prosecute human rights defenders, activists, journalists and government critics for the peaceful exercise of their freedoms of association and expression. It also documents the restrictions on peaceful protests in law and practice, the arbitrary arrest and prosecution of protesters and the use of excessive force and firearms to disperse protests against government policies and land disputes with businesses.

    NepalCIVICUS and Freedom Forum examine howrepressive laws, including amendments made to Nepal’s criminal code, have been used to limit the work of independent CSOs and suppress the freedom of expression. The submission further discusses how the ongoing attacks against journalists and the suppression of peaceful assembly continues to undermine civil space in the country. An evaluation of a range of legal sources and human rights documentation addressed in this submission demonstrate that the Government of Nepal has not implemented any of the recommendations relating to civic space during its previous UPR examination.

    OmanThe Omani Association for Human Rights, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and CIVICUS highlight the closure of civic space in Oman and the use of restrictive legislation to target human rights defenders, journalists and writers and civil society organisations.  We outline concerns over the forced closure of human rights organisations, the shutting down of independent newspapers and the banning of books and other publications.  Human rights defenders and journalists are often subjected to arbitrary arrests and judicial persecution for their reporting and human rights activities. Due to these restrictions, several human rights defenders and their families have fled into exile.  Freedom of peaceful assembly is also severely restricted as provisions in the Penal Code are used to pre-empt and prevent protests and stop those that actually take place. 

    RwandaThe submission byCIVICUS and DefendDefenders (EHAHRDP) outlines serious concerns related to the unabated repression of the work of human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists. The submission explores how restrictions on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, expression and access to information have been codified and willfully misapplied under Law No. 68/2018  (on assembly), Law N0 04/12 (on association and activities of CSOs), and the Law on Prevention and Punishment of Cybercrimes (expression and access to information). The Submission makes a number of action-oriented recommendations in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Rwandan Constitution, the ICCPR, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Council resolutions 22/6, 27/5 and 27/31. 

    See all of our UPR submissions here.


    Country civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor: 

    AustraliaLebanon, MauritaniaMyanmar, NepalOman, Rwanda

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Nepal government must halt efforts to curtail civil society organisations

    A new proposed policy by the government of Nepal would further curtail the work of international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the country by tightening the state’s control over them.

     

  • Nepal: Democracy Dialogue Report: 29 July 2018

    Democracy Dialogue held by the Dignity Initiative, Butwal, Nepal, 29 July 2018

     

  • Nepal: UN review critical moment to address obstructed civic freedoms

    Statement on Nepal ahead of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    CIVICUS calls on UN member states to urge the Government of Nepal to double its efforts to protect civic freedoms as its human rights record is examined by the UN Human Rights Council on 21 January 2021 as part of the 37th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

    At the county’s second UPR five years ago, UN member states made three recommendations that directly related to civic space. Nepal subsequently committed to taking concrete measures to create a safe and enabling environment in which journalists, media workers, human rights defenders and civil society can operate freely. The government also agreed to ensure that freedom of assembly is guaranteed, and to ensure the right to freedom of expression including by decriminalizing defamation, and to investigate all cases of threats and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders. In a joint report to this UPR cycle, CIVICUS and Freedom Forum assessed the implementation of these recommendations and compliance with international human rights law and standards over the last five years.

    Despite commitments made, repressive laws, including amendments made to Nepal’s criminal code, have been used to limit the work of independent CSOs and suppress freedom of expression. The government has continued to introduce legislation that could restrict the work of CSOs unwarrantedly and that risks undermining freedom of association.

    ‘We are seriously concerned by the lack of progress made with regards to the implementation of last cycle’s recommendations. This highlights the importance of using the UPR to reiterate to Nepal that its continued shortcomings in policy and practice relating to civic rights are unacceptable,’ said David Kode, Advocacy lead at CIVICUS.

    Ongoing attacks against journalists continues to undermine civic space in the country. Since 2015, there have still been a number of physical attacks on human rights defenders and journalists, while others have been subjected to judicial harassment. In particular, the 2006 Electronic Transactions Act has often been misused to prosecute online journalists as well as government critics. There are also concerns about the Media Council and Public Broadcasting bill which could affect press freedom.

    ‘The UPR process is an opportunity to build on human rights achievements as well as to hold governments to account. A mechanism to protect journalists is welcome and necessary, but is only a first step – authorities must commit to fully investigate all attacks against media workers and to repeal or amend all restrictive laws which undermine freedom of expression,’ said David Kode.

    Peaceful protests continue to be met with excessive force and arbitrary arrests. Authorities have limited public space to prevent assemblies from gathering to express dissent against government policies.

    In the joint report, CIVICUS and Freedom Forum urged states to make recommendations which if implemented would guarantee the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to communicate and cooperate, the right to seek and secure funding and the state’s duty to protect.

    Key recommendations that should be made include:

    • To remove all undue restrictions on the ability of CSOs to receive international and domestic funding
    • To undertake a full consultation with all concerned stakeholders on the proposed law regulating ‘social organisations’, and the proposed National Integrity Policy, and guarantee that when enacted, undue restrictions on the freedom of association are removed
    • To ensure that HRDs are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear or undue hindrance, obstruction or legal and administrative harassment.
    • To amend the Electronic Transactions Act and the proposed Information Technology bill designed to replace it, to bring it into line with the ICCPR and other international standards
    • To review the criminal code in order to ensure that legislation is in line with best practices and international standards in the area of the freedom of expression, looking particularly at sections 293, 294, 295, 298 and 306.
    • To reform defamation legislation in conformity with article 19 of the ICCPR, in accordance with the recommendation of the taskforce.
    • To immediately and impartially investigate all instances of extrajudicial killing and excessive force committed by security forces while monitoring protests.

    The examination of Nepal will take place during the 37th Session of the UPR. The UPR is a process, in operation since 2008, which examines the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States every four and a half years. The review is an interactive dialogue between the State delegation and members of the Council and addresses a broad range of human rights topics. Following the review, a report and recommendations are prepared, which is discussed and adopted at the following session of the Human Rights Council.


    Civic space in Nepal is rated as Obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor, see country page.

     

  • Proposed new social media law in Nepal threatens freedom of expression

    • A new broad and restrictive law being introduced by the Nepalese government gives the authorities sweeping powers to block social media platforms and remove or criminalise defamatory posts
    • The government has also tabled legislation that restricts civil servants from sharing their views in the media including via social media sites
    • Global and regional human rights groups are concerned that these laws are to be designed to stifle dissent and silence critical voices

    Nepal parliamentNew proposed laws relating to social media use in Nepal are intended to stifle dissent and silence critical voices, say global and regional human rights groups.

    Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) say they are seriously concerned that new legislation, which has been tabled in parliament by the Nepalese government, are meant to create a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.

    On February 20, 2019, Nepal's government tabled the Information Technology bill in parliament, which would impose harsh sanctions for “improper” social media posts. Under the proposed law, the government would have the power to block social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, unless the owners registered their platforms in Nepal. The government can also instruct social network site operators to remove posts. Failure to do so could lead to a three-year jail term and a fine of 30,000 Nepalese rupees (US$ 262). Those responsible for social media posts deemed defamatory or against national sovereignty could be punished with up to five years behind bars and a fine of 1.5 million Nepalese rupees (USD 13,000).

    “We are extremely concerned that this bill is overly broad and restrictive and, if passed,  could be used to block or criminalise reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions by civil society and citizens,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Civic Space Researcher.

    “Any efforts to genuinely regulate online content must be approached in a transparent and consultative manner, and avoid criminal restrictions on free speech,” said Benedict. 

    “We call on the Nepalese government to ensure that the legislation is in line with international law and standards in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it has ratified and that vague provisions around protecting national sovereignty should be removed”

    CIVICUS and AHRC are also concerned about a new bill, tabled on February 13  2019, that prohibits civil servants from sharing their views through media including their micro-blogging sites, even after their retirement from government service. The law also prohibits speeches and writing that are considered “contrary to the policies of the Government of Nepal or to undermine mutual relationship between the Government of Nepal and the people or the relationship with any foreign country”.

     “It is extremely worrying to see such laws being introduced by the authorities that will further shrink civic space in Nepal,” said Basil Fernando, Director of AHRC.

    “Criticism and dissent are essential attributes for an open and democratic society. We urge the authorities to pull the plug on such regressive legislation and instead take steps to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression to flourish,” said Fernando.

    Fundamental freedoms in Nepal continue to face serious threats. Journalists have been arrested and charged under the Electronic Transaction Act 2008 for their reports and dozens have been attacked or threatened. Police have also used excessive and lethal force at demonstrations, with impunity and laws have been proposed to curtail the work of NGOs.

    The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society in countries across the globe, rates civic space – the space for civil society – in Nepal as Obstructed.

    ENDS

     For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

    Josef Benedict

    Insert CIVICUS facebook page link

    Insert CIVICUS twitter account (including Monitor twitter account where relevant

     

  • The struggles of Women Human Rights Defenders in Nepal

    By CIVICUS and ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (AHRC) 

    Women in Nepal face many challenges due to issues of inequality and injustice in the society. Gender discrimination and gender-based violence are just some of the serious and widespread problems for women. Nepali women are not treated equally, not just in practice, but under law as well. The law regarding nationality, for example, discriminates against women, making some of them “second-class” citizens in society.

    Read on: Open Democracy