On March 16, ARTICLE 19 delivered an oral statement on the adoption of the UPR of Nepal at the UN Human Rights Council.
Universal Periodic Review Outcome of Nepal – Item 6
ARTICLE 19 and Freedom Forum
31st Session of the Human Rights Council – 16 March 2016
Delivered by Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19
ARTICLE 19 and Freedom Forum welcomes the engagement of Nepal in the Universal Periodic Review process.
In particular, we welcome as a positive development the adoption of a new Constitution on 20 September 2015. We are hopeful that the incorporation of fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression in Article 17, will pave the way to the implementation of this cornerstone right for all people.
However, we remain concerned that the Constitution allows for illegitimate restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, including for purposes not recognised under international law, such as the “sovereignty and integrity of Nepal”, and the “harmonious relations” between communities, without due regard to the principles of necessity or proportionality. We have similar concerns regarding the “right to communicate” under Article 19 of the Constitution.
Freedom Forum recorded 83 incidents of press freedom violation in 2015, up 300% on the previous year, underscoring why it is important that the deep-rooted hostile culture to the media, including among public bodies, is addressed.
We remain concerned that defamation is a criminal offence under the Defamation Act 1959, which allows for disproportionate restrictions on the right to freedom of expression. We call for the decriminalization of defamation, and for the government to ensure that redress for defamation is provided only through civil law.
Section 47 of the Electronic Transaction Act is still used to harass citizens and journalists, and must be amended to comply with international human rights law on freedom of expression and safeguard against abuse.
Though we welcome the government’s formation of a high-level committee to study existing communication laws and policies, and to formulate a draft media policy, we note that progress has stalled and that there has been insufficient inclusion and effective participation of broad stakeholders. We are concerned that the coverage of “new media”, including news portals and social media, should not be brought under the control of the State.
At the adoption of this UPR, ARTICLE 19 and Freedom Forum strongly urges the Nepal government to protect and promote freedom of expression both in law and practice, including by ending impunity for violations.