Director-General of UNESCO welcomes lifting of restrictions on the media in NepalThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today welcomed the lifting by Nepal’s Council of Ministers of restrictions on press freedom. Mr Matsuura also pledged UNESCO’s support to help the country rebuild an enabling environment for free and independent media.
“UNESCO welcomes the recent positive developments in Nepal relating to the protection of press freedom,” the Director-General declared. “On 9 May 2006, in response to vigorous public demand, the Council of Ministers annulled three ordinances promulgated by the previous government, among which was a controversial media ordinance. That ordinance had resulted in the ban of broadcast news on several FM stations and a precipitous rise in licensing fees for FM stations, threatening the free media sector as a whole. The annulment of the ordinance promises to reverse the restrictive measures applied to the media by the former government of Nepal, measures which included the suspension of all constitutional and legal safeguards related to media, as well as the physical placement of army personnel in the editorial rooms of major newspapers to control news items.”
“UNESCO celebrates Nepal’s re-building of respect for freedom of expression. While the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and press freedom presents challenges to all states, it promises to make them stronger, freer and more democratic. UNESCO shall continue in its efforts to support Nepal and its people in developing an environment conducive to freedom of expression, especially as regards media legislation as well as capacity-building for media professionals. UNESCO stands ready to offer Nepal any technical assistance it may require in restructuring its media laws and reinforcing professional media organizations to best protect freedom of the press and the public’s right to freedom of information,” concluded Mr Matsuura.
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…”