KATHMANDU, Jan 31: Freedoms came under attack in Nepal in 2019 as the government proposed laws to restrict the right to freedom of expression and subject civil society organizations to greater restrictions, said Amnesty International (AI) in its annual report on events in the Asia-Pacific region.
The report titled ‘Human Rights in Asia-Pacific: Review of 2019’, released on Thursday delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world’s largest continent. Under Nepal chapter, the AI has expressed concern over recent moves taken by the government to undermine press freedom.
Laws like the Electronic Transactions Act 2006 were used to arbitrarily arrest journalists and artists in Nepal. By the end of the year, three new bills – the Media Council Bill, the Mass Communication Bill, and the Information Technology Bill – were proposed that would further restrict the right to freedom of expression, the report said.
The government also proposed amendments to legislation that would undermine the independence of the National Human Rights Commission. The cabinet also proposed a new law that would restrict the activities of civil society organizations and subject them to more stringent monitoring.
“The new bills proposing restrictions on freedom of expression will damage Nepal’s regional reputation and violate its international obligations. These bills must be withdrawn or amended immediately to ensure that no one in Nepal is punished for what they peacefully say or write,” said AI’s South Asia Director Biraj Patnaik.
The report has criticized the Nepal government for its failure to deliver on truth, justice and reparations for conflict victims. “Migrant workers, a source of prized remittances, were not protected from abusive recruitment practices. And many people who lost their homes during the 2015 earthquake were no closer to finding permanent shelter,” reads the report.
The report states there was little progress on truth, justice and reparations for thousands of victims of crimes under international law and other serious violations of international human rights law committed during the decade-long armed conflict, 13 years after the state committed to do so as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Every year, thousands of Nepalis leave the country to seek employment abroad, but these migrant workers still have not been given the protections they need against exploitative recruitment practices in Nepal, the report noted.
It has also questioned the effectiveness of free-visa-free-ticket schemes for migrant workers.