UNESCO Director-General concerned by attacks on freedom of expression in NepalUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today expressed deep concern over the attacks against democracy and freedom of expression that have occurred since a state of emergency was declared in Nepal.
Recalling that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan had on February 1 described the moves to dissolve the government, impose a state of emergency and suspend civil liberties and freedom of expression as a “serious setback for the country”, Mr Matsuura said: “The announcement that dozens of media outlets have been closed or taken over by the armed forces, the ban on any critical reports, and the many arrests of journalists represent attacks on freedom of expression, which UNESCO has a mission to defend.”
Mr Matsuura added: "The gains over the past 15 years in terms of press freedom, and therefore of democratic progress, have been obliterated in the space of a few days. However, press freedom, like other fundamental freedoms, is indispensable for a properly functioning society. Nepal will not be able to live in peace without respecting these fundamental rights, democracy and the multi-party system.”
The Kathmandu Post reports that nearly 1,000 journalists are in danger of losing their jobs because of the news ban on FM radio stations. Several leaders of the Nepalese Federation of Journalists have had to go into hiding. Communications have been re-established but media outlets are still being closed, according to Reporters sans Frontières (Reporters without Borders).
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this purpose the Organization is required to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”