Minister for Information and Communications Raj Kishor Yadav has underlined the need for ensuring press freedom and freedom of expression to which the government has accorded top priority. Speaking at an interaction with editors and senior journalists in Kathmandu the other day, Minister Yadav said that the present government was committed to protecting the rights of the people, including the people’s right to information, as well as resolving all problems facing the media sector in the country. People of Nepal have realised the importance of a free press as their right to information and other freedoms were curtailed in the absence of media freedom in the past, especially before the restoration of democracy. Learning lessons from the past, the government has been working to guarantee freedom of expression and press freedom, which under no circumstances can be curtailed in the future.
Freedom of press is the hallmark of a democratic and open society. A democratic system of governance cannot be vibrant in the absence of a free press, while meaningful and effective press freedom cannot exist without democracy and an open society. Thus democracy and a free press are, in a way, synonymous. In a democracy, the people’s right to information must be safeguarded and realised. A free, vibrant and functioning media alone can ensure the right to information of the people. People have the right to know about government affairs. Only informed citizens can make the right decision in every sphere of the society. The decision of the people is supreme in a democracy, and every decision of the government is made based on the people’s wishes and sentiments. This is the spirit and essence of democracy.
In fact, the media is the bridge between the people and the government. If the media itself cannot get information of public interest in time, it cannot properly inform the people and educate them. The obstruction in the right to information is tantamount to blocking the democratic process. Although the government has shown its commitment to ensure the right to information, this, however, has not yet been put into practice. In theory, the Nepali press is free. In practice, there are still many hurdles. Thus all these hurdles must be done away with to ensure complete freedom of the media. Against this background, the assurance of the Information and Communications Minister to guarantee total press freedom, protect journalists and resolve all problems of the media sector is indeed heartening. The press hopes this public commitment will be translated into action for which cooperation between the government and media community is needed.