Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization that evaluates the human rights situation in countries around the world, has asked Nepali authorities to stop intimidating journalists.
The two online news portals had published news reports, claiming that Prime Minister KP Oli held an hour-long meeting with Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana on Monday midnight, the day writ petitions were filed at the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
The news reports quoted anonymous sources and suggested that Oli had asked Rana to support him during the court hearing.
Responding to the news that the two journalists were summoned by the Supreme Court, pressured to disclose their sources and apologize for the publication of the story about the alleged meeting between Oli and Rana, Nirajan Thapaliya, Director of Amnesty International Nepal, said “Nepal’s authorities must respect the constitutionally guaranteed right to press freedom and refrain from intimidating and harassing journalists simply for publishing news.”
“If there are disagreements over media content, they must follow the due processes and not resort to highhanded approaches that may lead to a climate of fear and insecurity among journalists.”
“We call on the authorities to ensure an environment in which journalists can carry out their work freely without any fear of reprisal. A free press is a precondition for the protection, promotion and fulfilment of the right to freedom of expression and the right to information.”
Prior to summoning the two editors, the Supreme Court administration had issued a Press Statement refuting the news and warning of “legal actions” if the “misleading” news was not corrected.
Nepal plunged into fresh political turmoil on May 22 as President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved parliament for the second time and fixed general elections in November amid a worsening COVID-19 outbreak.
The surprise announcement came after a presidential statement said neither the caretaker Prime Minister Oli, nor opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba were able to demonstrate a majority to form a new government by the deadline set by Bhandari.
“The president has dissolved the House of Representatives and ordered the first phase of general elections on November 12 and the second phase on November 19,” a presidential statement issued after midnight said.
It said the decision was made on the recommendation of the cabinet headed by caretaker Prime Minister Oli, whose December 2020 dissolution of parliament sparked weeks of protests and was reversed by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in February.
A total of 28 writ petitions were registered against the House dissolution, of which 24 are in favor of reinstatement of House of Representatives.
A general bench at the apex court is hearing 19 writ petitions today and the rest will be heard on tomorrow.
The petitioners have demanded reinstatement of parliament, appointment of Deuba as the PM and scrap the decision of the cabinet to dissolve the House.