Democracy is minimum precondition for free, fair journalism, President says

Kathmandu: President Ramchandra Paudel has said that democracy is the minimum precondition for free and fair journalism. Issuing a message today on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the President said freedom of the press and freedom of expression is a foundation of democracy and recalled the contributions of the Nepali press sector in the country's major movements taken place for democracy. Press freedom is equally important for implementing citizens' constitutional right to get information, President Paudel said adding that the free press helps ensure transparency in the governance system and hold it accountable. "This is a vital aspect of the entire society's democratization process," the President's message reads. President Paudel has said the more the press is neutral, free and robust the more the democratic system will be strengthened, and it was all our responsibility to create an environment conducive to this. Due to this very role of the Nepali press, our constitution has ensured complete press freedom and freedom of expression, President Paudel viewed. The President has described that free engagement in all steps from information collection to its dissemination is press freedom in a true sense adding that pluralism-based journalism ensures citizens' access to every sort of news. In his message, the President has suggested that the media fraternity should work hard to establish the truth by disseminating facts through independent journalism and has cautioned that rumours could misguide the citizens and could create challenges in making the right perception. Likewise, the President has pointed out that fake news that could be disseminated through social networking sites could misguide the citizens and weaken the system, and has wished that World Press Freedom Day would inspire Nepal's media fraternity to disseminate true, factual and credible news. Source: National News Agency RSS

‘Employees non-cooperative for gender responsive budget’

Kathmandu: Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizen, Bhagbati Chaudhari, has blamed the bureaucracy of not extending cooperation to the political leaders while formulating gender responsive budget. Government employees are indifferent towards formulation of gender responsive budget, he argued. Minister Chaudhari said it while putting forth her views during an interaction with lawmakers on 'gender responsive budget and sexual and reproductive rights' on Friday. The event was organized by the federalism strengthening and national concern committee of the National Assembly. "We, political leaders forward plans in a way it would create hope and ensure results, but the employees create obstruction in pretext of law," she complained. The Minister however underlined the need of working together with bureaucracy because it is the permanent government. Source: National News Agency RSS

Media urged to critically report triple planetary crises

Kathmandu: Various stakeholders have urged the media fraternity to meticulously report critical planetary issues concerning climate change, loss of biodiversity and air pollution. The speakers said this at a multi-stakeholder interaction entitled 'Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis', organized by the Ministry of Forests and Environment and International Press Institute (IPI) Nepal Chapter on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day in the capital on Friday. Delivering a presentation, Chief of the REDD Implementation Centre under the MoFE, Naba Raj Pudasaini asked media and civil society organizations (CSOs) to bring into light the issues of forest conservation, watershed management, and plastic use prevention for a healthy planet. "Forest fire has been the main cause behind the loss of biodiversity, air pollution, and climate change so it needs careful planning and interventions in cahoots with the community people to deal with the trigger", he said, highlighting a robu st and collaborative coping strategy to mitigate the triple planetary crises. Watershed management which is the prime priority for keeping water recharged and protecting species has been brazenly ignored in Nepal, he said, asking questions as to how the hydropower projects would go sustainable without protecting water recharge spaces. He further shared that Nepal has entered into a carbon trade but access to carbon finance has become invariably tough due to procedural hassles, capacity deficit and time-taking process. "Presumably it takes protracted 6-7 years to complete a process to access carbon finance. The global community needs to make carbon trade deal simple and non-technical". Also speaking on the occasion, Nagarik newspaper editor Gunaraj Luitel highlighted the watchdog role of media to debunk critical issues of the environment and planet. Governance and federalism expert Ramesh Adhikari called for media and CSOs to track the mobilization of corporate social responsibility (CSR) allocation by the private sector. "The media should unveil the stories whether or not these resources are being spent for the protection of the environment as a public good". Environmental journalists, Anjali Subedi and Jagadiswor Pandey called for the need of establishing a research center for providing updated data and information for credible reporting on climate change issues. IPI Nepal Chapter general-secretary Siromani Dhungana shared that such collaborative dialogue will bring together change-makers to deal with the issues related to climate change and the environment. The event was participated in by policy-makers, journalists, representatives from CSOs, development partners and activists. Source: National News Agency RSS

No change in tax rate on pressure: Finance Minister Pun

Kathmandu: Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun has said the tax rate would be changed for coming fiscal year only on the basis of need and relevance. The Finance Minister vowed the tax rate would not be changed on anyone's pressure or interest. During a meeting with youth industrialists and IT experts at his office on Friday, Minister Pun, however, said the tax rates could be changed as per experts' suggestions. He further informed that government had the policy to forward development plans based on country's geo-location, natural resources and workforce. Finance Minister hailed the progress made in the last one and half decade in the tourism, energy and cement industries. According to him, government was mulling to prioritize information technology, start up and innovation. Time has come for all sides concerned to work together to augment the economic growth in the background that Nepal witnessed only 4.23 percent economic growth rate it the last three decades. Moreover, the Finance Minister asserted that w ith the new law brought through ordinance, government had assured profits to any firm that invest in Nepal. Source: National News Agency RSS

NIC to award 13 RTI activists

Kathmandu: The National Information Commission (NiC) has decided to award 13 persons working as campaigners to augment right to information regime in the country. They are being awarded on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of NIC next day. The NIC issued a press release on Friday, mentioning that it had decided to award 13 people in recognition to their contribution to RTI and good governance. According to the NIC, the Vinay Kasaju Best Campaigner Award will be given to Parashuram Sah of Siraha Municipality-7, Yadunath Banjara of Pokhara Metropolitan City-16, Indra Prasad Banjara of Hetaunda Sub-Metropolitan City-8 and Aditya Dahal of Melamchi Municipality-10. Similarly, the Commission will award the Best Information Officer Award to Lalit Bahadur Budha of Panchadeval Binayak Municipality, Achham; Kishra Kumar Waiba of Hyanglekh Rural Municipality, Sindhuli; Tul Bahadur BK of Galkot Municipality, Baglung; Tek Bahadur Khatri of Dangisharan Rural Municipality, Dang; and Dambar Rogu of Dhankuta Municipalit y, Dhankuta. Similarly, the Commission's section Officer Harihar Karki, Shanta Neupane, Accountant Lakshman Aryal and Computer Operator Gaurav Gurung will be awarded with the best employees award for this year. Commissioner and Spokesperson at the Commission, Kamala Oli Thapa, informed that the awards will be given to the awardees during a special ceremony to be held at President's office Sheetal Niwas in the federal capital o Saturday. Source: National News Agency RSS

Media houses suggested establishment of fact-check desks

Kathmandu: The media houses have been suggested to set up fact check desks/mechanism to avoid misinformation and deception of technology. Arguing that digital spheres have witnessed numerous problems discrediting professional journalism, a report released on the occasion of the Word Press Freedom Day today, called for collaboration among media houses and media regulatory bodies for thorough research and study to deal with the pressing problems. "There is growing urgency of thorough research, study and recognition to digital press so that multiple problems like mis/disinformation can be tackled in collaboration, rather than dealing with these threats in silos," the report issued by the Freedom Forum (FF) stated. The press freedom report also shared the data on press freedom violations recorded in the last one year- from May 1, 2023 to April 30, 2024. As per data, last year witnessed rise on press freedom violations. FF recorded a total of 60 press freedom violations in which total 88 media persons were aff ected. Among them, there were 77 male and 11 female journalists, it added. In the previous year, there were 40 such violations affecting 79 journalists. The media monitoring report further stated that Bagmati Province topped incidents of violations (24), while Karnali the least- only one. Most of the journalists receiving intimidations are from online news media. The intimidations are categorized into obstruction/vandalism, threat, arrest/detention, attack/manhandle and misbehaviour. The obstruction and vandalism combined were 27, while attack and manhandle combined 25. The report expressed worry over the inaction in law and policy making for media reform and press freedoms in the monitoring period. Similarly, it has noted positively the operation of a journalist safety mechanism under the leadership of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which the report argued was resulted after a long initiation of multi-stakeholders including civil society. In this regard, FF Executive Chief Taranath Dahal c ommented, "Financial crisis of media is a worrying concern. Especially the community and online media are facing huge crisis. Time has come to debate on investment modality on such media." According to him, although there were not serious violations as recorded in the past, rising number of anti-press incidents shows hostility to free press is still intact. Meanwhile, at a programme FF organized on the same occasion on Friday, FF Chairman Hari Binod Adhikari said free press is essential for democracy, for which all sides concerned should pay attention. Source: National News Agency RSS

Emphasis laid on increasing number of daycare centres for elderly

Kathmandu: Lawmakers have laid emphasis on the need of increasing number of daycare centre for senior citizens. In today's meeting of the Women and Social Affairs Committee under the House of Representatives drew the attention of the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, for the same. On the occasion, Committee members said local levels have been establishing and running daycare centres at their own way and suggested the Ministry to take guardianship of daycare centres. Committee member Shanti Shrestha said, "There are not daycare centres at most of the local levels. The federal government should take guardianship along with local levels." Stressing on the need of building old age home and daycare centres, Laxmi Tiwari suggested the Ministry to facilitate the problems seen in renew of senior citizen allowance. She mentioned that old age home and daycare centre helps the senior citizens to stay socially and mentally healthy. Most of the members of the Committee asked to expand the role of mini stry as many senior citizens are unaware about the facilities and arrangements they get from the state, suggesting keeping the issue of learning of respect and care for senior citizens in school curriculum. Joint-Secretary at the Ministry, Chandra Kala Poudel, said activities would be carried out targeting senior citizens and policy-level plan in the budget of the coming fiscal year. The Ministry will make preparation for policy-level arrangement as preparation for coming fiscal year has already begun, she mentioned, adding the ministry has not its own mechanism for the same. The federal government has supported to establish 225 elderly daycare centres at different local levels. As per the data of the Ministry, 108 daycare centres are in operation. Poudel shared, "Situation of senior citizens of special condition is terrible. Something should be done immediately for the same. It is difficult to make understand that social security allowance is not only solution." Existing laws related to senior citizens, arrangements made from state, elderly population and current situation of old age home were discussed in the meeting. The country has 2 million 977 thousand population of senior citizens, which is 10 per cent of the total population. Of it, senior citizens of the 60-74 years age is eight per cent, which is the highest percentage, while 1.8 per cent population belongs to the senior citizens of the 75-84 years of age. Similarly, the population of senior citizens above 85 years is 0.5 per cent. Source: National News Agency RSS

Government delivering on strengthening media sector and promoting journalists’ welfare

Kathmandu: Minister for Communication and Information Technology Rekha Sharma said that the incumbent government was working towards strengthening media sector and promoting the welfare of working journalists. Addressing the 27th general convention of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) here today, Minister Sharma shared that the proposal relating to increasing the minimum wage for journalists, which was the same for last six years, was being deliberated in the committee of council presently. Sharma, also Spokesperson of the government, said that the government was confident that if the proposed laws and decisions taken forward by the government were enforced, it would restructure Nepal's mass communication sector as well as journalism sector would feel the wind of change. She was hopeful that this general convention would serve an opportunity to review the earlier executive committee's performance and offer guidelines to the new leadership besides considering some concrete policy-level decisions. Minister Sharma was also expressed the belief that the policies and decisions endorsed by the general convention would help further streamline mass communication sector by ensuring the physical and professional security and stability for the journalists. The general convention could be fruitful in offering the government feedback for the policy, and for legal and structural development of the mass communication sector, she expressed. The Minister acknowledged the role of FNJ in working tirelessly for development of journalism sector, protection and promotion of journalists' rights and interests, safeguarding press and freedom of speech, nationality, democracy and people's rights. "FNJ's role in ushering country towards the progressive political outlet by institutionally endorsing the agenda of republican governance system at people's level for the first time is written in golden letters in Nepal's history," Minister Sharma observed. Sharma argued, "Since freedom of press is not possible without political rights and political rights would not be complete without freedom of press, Nepal has a history of politics and journalism moving ahead in tandem." She opined that since political rights and freedom of press rights would move hand in hand, Nepal's journalism sector had been playing an important role in any huge struggles for political changes lately. Furthermore, the Minister saw the need for politics and journalism to advance the same mission to further establish the political and press freedom related rights thereby bringing about good changes in the lives of people in the wake of the change in the governance system. The Minister for Communication and Information Technology viewed that only a practical implementation of the full press freedom provision enshrined in the very preamble of the Constitution will be considered to have guaranteed the rights of the Nepali journalists. She informed that for the past one year, the work of creating and reviewing laws related to communication is going on to further ensure the freedom of the press. Minister Sharma said that the government has prioritized the drafting of laws based on the direct involvement and opinions of media-related organizations and experts in this field, as well as the creation of laws through a transparent and democratic method, including the opinions of stakeholders and ordinary citizens. "Accordingly, the Media Council Bill, which has been prepared with a focus on promoting self-regulation in the mass media sector, has recently been registered in the Federal Parliament, while the Mass Media Bill is in the process of being submitted to the Cabinet soon," she said. Similarly, Minister Sharma said that the bill to regulate the use of social media is also being prepared to be submitted to the Council of Ministers soon. "After the formulation of the Mass Media Act as an umbrella law, the government is thinking of establishing the Mass Media Authority as an umbrella body for the management and facilitation of mass media, promoting the media, protec ting the professional rights of working journalists and operating the public welfare fund from a single agency," Minister Sharma added. She further said that the Bill on Public Media, which was advanced with the aim of making the government-owned media more autonomous and effective, is being discussed in the thematic committee of the House of Representatives. "At present, we are moving ahead taking the National Mass Media Policy, 2073 BS as guideline while drafting the law. With the change in information technology, new possibilities and challenges have emerged in the mass media sector, so I think that a new mass media policy should be formulated to deal with it," she said. She expected the necessary advice and suggestions from the field of journalism, stating that the Ministry is continuously cooperating with the Federation of Nepali Journalists in activities for the development of the overall journalism sector, including policy and law making. Stating that the journalism sector, like the entire other se ctors, is in a state of crisis today due to the current global economic slowdown and dissemination of false and misleading information, Minister Sharma said, "There is difficulty in media operation Due to the economic contraction and when the sources of advertisement have also shrunk, and it has a direct impact on both media owners and working journalists. The government is sensitive to facilitate this and facilitate the media and the physical and professional safety of journalists." Minister Sharma said that the Ministry is discussing topics such as establishing the media as a national industry and making the advertising market transparent. Source: National News Agency RSS

Willpower needed for disaster management: DPM Lamichhane

Kathmandu: Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane has said willpower is necessary for disaster management, not only budget. In a meeting of Federalism Strengthening and National Concern Committee of the National Assembly, DPM Lamichhane underlined, "Budget will be managed itself if there is willpower. Arrangement of necessary tools should be made for disaster management. Saving the life of citizens during disaster is the first priority. At first, attention should be paid on the priority. The government has been making efforts for disaster management. We are exercising integrated system." He laid emphasis on the need of preparedness for the reduction of losses caused by disaster. The DPM mentioned, "A broad discussion should be held about the budget required for disaster management. The government is ready to provide necessary resources." Source: National News Agency RSS

24 pieces of artifacts shipped to Nepal from Hawaii

Kathmandu: The Embassy of Nepal in Washington, DC USA sent 24 pieces of artifacts to the Department of Archaeology in Nepal. The artifacts received from Ms Susan Bradford on April 19, 2024 in Maui, Hawaii were sent to Nepal on May 2, stated a press release of the Embassy of Nepal in Washington DC. Second Secretary Uttam Ghimire received these artifacts at Maui, Hawaii on behalf of the Embassy, it is stated. These artifacts were once part of private collection of Ms Bradford, who voluntarily reached out to the Embassy to return these to Nepal. Most of these artifacts date back to 17th and 18th century, while few date back to 13th century. The Embassy said that Ms Bradford herself sponsored the shipping of these artifacts to Nepal. The Embassy has extended its sincere gratitude to Ms Bradford for returning these precious art pieces to the Government of Nepal. Acknowledging the importance of the return of these art pieces she expressed the hope that her initiative will inspire many others to return the lost h eritages to their rightful place. As part of its efforts to recover and repatriate lost and stolen art heritages of Nepal, the Embassy has been actively engaged with relevant agencies of Government of Nepal and the United States, art researchers, heritage recovery campaigners, media, and private individuals. Together with these 24 pieces of artifacts, the Embassy has so far been able to send altogether 63 pieces of artifacts to Nepal within a period of a year, reads the press release. Source: National News Agency RSS

Govt at work to set up industrial village in every municipality: Minister Bhandari

Kathmandu: Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supply, Damodar Bhandari, has said government was mulling a policy to set up an industrial village in each municipality. Inaugurating a religious festival at Kamalbazar Municipality-6 of Achham on Friday, he informed that industrial products would be classified with coordination and collaboration among three tiers of governments. Production and employment are in government's priority, he said, adding that his Ministry had stressed entrepreneurship for the same. Minister Bhandari also shared that government was for policy reform to ensure extraction of minerals in the country. On a different note, he viewed, "Capital expenditure did not increase owing to various reasons. It has also hindered the journey of prosperity." According to him, government was acting in line with minimum common programme. Overcoming despair and creating hope is the need of hour, Bhandari underlined. Source: National News Agency RSS

Foreign Minister of Japan Yoko paying official visit to Nepal on May 5

Kathmandu: Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Ms Kamikawa Yoko is paying an official visit to Nepal on 5 May 2024. She is visiting Nepal at the cordial invitation of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release today. During her visit, she will pay courtesy calls on President Ramchandra Paudel and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'. The Japanese Minister will meet and hold bilateral talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Shrestha on 5 May 2024. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan will depart from Kathmandu the same day. Source: National News Agency RSS