The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) warns the Government of Nepal that plans to use journalists as law enforcement informers jeopardises the independence and safety of media personnel.
According to the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), an IFJ affiliate, the plans are contained in a document from the Ministry for Home Affairs regarding its new Special Security Strategy, which states journalists would be deployed to source information from criminal outfits across Nepal.
The document also said journalists commissioned to do this work would be paid as National Investigation Department employees.
The FNJ has voiced strong condemnation of the strategy, noting the already precarious safety environment for journalists working in the troubled Terai region or those who are reporting on political conflict.
The FNJ said the strategy reflected techniques used by Nepal’s ousted monarchy to force journalists to act as spies to obtain information on anti-royal groups. The strategy could potentially generate suspicion against all journalists and encourage an escalation of violence and attacks against media personnel and outlets.
Twenty-eight journalists were killed in Nepal in the country’s decade-long war, which was followed by civil disorder after the 2005 royal coup.
On May 28, 2008 members of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly voted to end Nepal’s 240 years of monarchical rule and to form a federal democratic republic.
“Nepal remains in an incredibly delicate state of transition to democracy and its people will depend heavily on the independence of the media to ensure power-holders operate in a transparent fashion,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“Requiring journalists to act as double-agents on behalf of the Government undermines their professional integrity and risks their safety.”
The IFJ joins the FNJ in urging Nepal’s Government to immediately withdraw any provisions of the Special Security Strategy that undermine the professional standing and independence of journalists.
The FNJ has further stated that any journalist who works as a government informer will not be eligible for FNJ membership and existing memberships will be cancelled.