Victim of political vicissitudes
Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli sang the praises of press freedom and pluralism when he was in opposition but, since becoming prime minister in February 2018, he has tried to gag journalists in various ways. An example of the government’s hostility to journalists was provided by the prime minister’s press adviser in early 2020, when he sidelined a political reporter simply because she had dared to criticise Oli. The political affiliation of Nepal’s media outlets is very marked to the point that pro-government media resemble propaganda outlets. In exchange, the central government tends to place advertising with newspapers that support it. There is a great deal of self-censorship, which the draconian legislation encourages. The new criminal code adopted in August 2018 contains several provisions that hamper investigative reporting and restrict criticism of public figures. The government has also tried to persuade parliament to pass a law providing for a journalistic content regulator whose members would be named directly by the executive. Another disturbing development is the “anti-media rhetoric,” which government representatives have begun using and which has been widely reproduced in the government’s newspapers, radio stations and TV channels. Debate about press freedom in Nepal is poisoned by a taboo issue – the total impunity surrounding crimes of violence against journalists during the “Saśastra Dvandvakāla” decade, the 1996-2006 civil war.
112 in 2020
35.10 in 2020