Director-General expresses deep concern about press freedom in NepalUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today expressed deep concern over the increasing attacks against democracy and freedom of expression that have occurred in recent weeks in Nepal. “The announcements that more than fifty journalists and publishers have been attacked, beaten up and arrested by the Nepalese Army and the Armed Police Forces represent attacks on freedom of expression, which UNESCO has a mission to defend,” said Mr. Matsuura, recalling also the critical report about the conditions for press freedom in Nepal from the recent mission to the country by the International Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression Mission, in which UNESCO took active part.
Mr Matsuura added: “The gains over the past 15 years in terms of press freedom, and therefore of democratic progress, are under serious risk of being destroyed. However, press freedom, like other fundamental freedoms, is indispensable for a functioning democratic society. Nepal will not be able to live in peace without respecting these fundamental rights. I therefore strongly encourage the authorities in Nepal to re-establish the conditions for free and independent media in the country.”
In recent weeks, national and international media as well as human rights organizations and journalists’ associations have reported extensively on how media professionals all over Nepal have been harassed and arrested for no other reason than reporting on the ongoing public meetings and demonstrations.
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…”