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Rights group warns of clampdown on freedom in Nepal

Amnesty International warned that freedom was on the back foot in Nepal in 2019 as the government introduced a series of measures to curb freedom of speech and trammel civil society organizations. 

“Over the past year, we have seen the country increasingly resort to repressive methods to restrict freedoms,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“Journalists were arrested simply for doing their jobs, singers were imprisoned solely for the content of their songs, and civil society came under greater pressure,” Patnaik said.

In their Human Rights in Asia-Pacific: Review of 2019, the UK-based group said the Electronic Transactions Act 2006 had been used to “arbitrarily arrest journalist and artists,” while the introduction of three new bills — the Media Council Bill, the Mass Communication Bill, and the Information Technology Bill — were further set to put a muzzle on freedom of speech

“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 These bills must be withdrawn or amended immediately to ensure that no one in Nepal is punished for what they peacefully say or write,” said Patnaik.

The group further criticized legislation that would subject civil society groups to “more stringent monitoring”, while criticizing government efforts to “undermine the independence of the National Human Rights Commission.”

Amnesty further said the government had failed “to deliver on truth, justice, and reparations” for the thousands of victims of various crimes and human rights violations during the country’s decade-long civil war, which ended in 2006. 

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The rights group further urged the government to provide housing for those who lose their homes during the 2015 earthquake and safeguard Nepalese migrant workers from exploitation.  

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