NEPAL: IFEX MEMBERS WORK TO GET FREE EXPRESSION WRITTEN IN CONSTITUTION
IFEX members in Nepal are campaigning to ensure that press freedom andfreedom of expression are enshrined in the constitution. Seven months since the Constituent Assembly elections - the monumental daywhen Nepal elected an assembly to decide the fate of the monarchy and writea new constitution for the country - the process of writing theconstitution has not been taken seriously, says the Federation of NepaliJournalists (FNJ). According to FNJ, a minimum general agreement among the 25 representativeparties of the assembly has not been reached due to "minor scuffles anddifferences of opinions." On 5 November, day one of a month-long campaign, FNJ submitted a memorandumto the constituent assembly, pressuring it to begin writing theconstitution, as well as to enshrine press freedom and freedom ofexpression as an unchangeable article. The memo has since been handed tothe prime minister and other top officials from various parties. "Political parties, professional organisations and all sectors of societyplay equally crucial roles in the campaign to draft the constitution, socertainly Nepalese journalists will also have an essential role to play,"FNJ said in the memo. The Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), with thesupport of the IFEX Campaigns Programme and funding from the Finnish mediadevelopment foundation VIKES, has also been working hard to promotepeople's participation in the constitution-making process. Since June, ithas been broadcasting a radio programme entitled "Swatantra Abhibyakti"(Free Expression) on five FM radio stations in five different regions.Radio is considered one of the best methods to raise people's awareness inmostly-rural Nepal - helping to reach a large audience and "bridging theviews of experts and politicians with those of commoners," says CEHURDES. The campaign takes place amid a backdrop of increasing attacks on mediahouses and personnel, says FNJ. In one of the latest attacks, the office of"Himal Khabar Patrika" magazine was burned down in Kathmandu.