UNESCO launched today a new two-year project aimed at increasing the safety of journalists and ending impunity in the crimes against media and media professionals in Kathmandu.
The new imitative is aimed at improving the security situation of media professionals by a multi-level approach based on the comprehensive framework of the “UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity”.
Funded with a budget of USD 566,500 by the United Nations Peace Fund for Nepal (UNPFN), the project aims to contribute to the establishment of sustainable peace and the rule of law by helping protect the freedom of expression.
“Journalists play an essential role in the peace process. But they must be safe to be able to provide people access to non-partisan information”, said Axel Plathe, UNESCO Representative to Nepal and the Head of UNESCO Office in Kathmandu in the kick-off meeting of the project.
“Continuous aggression against journalists and media persons and the impunity in many cases of press freedom violations and violence against journalists continue to threaten the still fragile peace process,” Plathe added. “The number of cases of press freedom violations and violence against journalists are increasing every year.”
Commissioner Gauri Pradhan of the National Human Rights Commission, a partner in the project, said that the citizen’s rights to freedom of expression and right to information are closely related with the safety of journalists. He added “The situation is improving but there are still a lot of cases of violence against journalists”. He also urged all stakeholders to help develop a free, fair and ethical journalism.
Yadu Prasad Panthi, under-secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), said that Government of Nepal is committed to ensure the people’s rights and that MoIC and concerned departments have carried out various activities to ensure journalists safety.
“To ensure the safety of journalists, it is necessary to focus on the root causes of the violence against them,” Panthi said. “The Government is committed to ensure the rights and safety of the journalists.”
Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) acting president Yasodha Timilsina said that media have been forced to believe that journalists in Nepal are still not safe, both physically and professionally.
“When journalists cannot operate in a safe environment, this immediately reflected on the quality of their work. Hence, when it comes to constitutionally ensuring the freedom of press and expression, one also needs to ensure the physical and professional safety of journalists,” Timilsina added.
In the programme, Nirmala Sharma, the president of Sancharika Samuha, highlighted the situation of safety of women journalists while Jesper Hojberg, the executive director of the International Media Support (IMS), talked about the role of the international media missions regularly carried out to Nepal since 2005, in ensuring the rights and safety of journalists in Nepal.
The safety of journalists has continued deteriorating in recent years. Professional journalists associations have expressed serious concerns over the increased number of incidents of violence against media professionals.
In this environment, the project is both timely and contextual to Nepal, which is among five countries identified for the first-phase roll out of the UN Plan of Action.
Working with professional journalists associations, international media rights organizations, human rights organizations and security and judicial bodies, the project will establish a nationally owned independent mechanism to provide appropriate framework to tackle the issue of journalists’ safety and impunity.
As a complementary action, it will also build capacity of security and judicial agencies to play their role to protect journalists and sensitize political groups and the general public on the importance of freedom of expression. Another important element of the project is building capacity of male and female journalists to better protect themselves.
Journalists’ safety and the issue of impunity have been the focus of the celebrations of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, which is organized each year on May 3 under the umbrella of UNESCO.
Globally, UNESCO promotes freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right, through sensitization and monitoring activities. It also fosters media independence and pluralism as prerequisites and major factors of democratization by providing advisory services on media legislation and sensitizing governments, parliamentarians and other decision-makers.
The project is being managed by the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu in partnership with the Ministry of Information and Communications and the National Human Rights Commission Nepal and many other organizations working for human rights and media development.
Kathmandu, 7 June 2013
Press release UNESCO/KAT 10/2013