The Right to Information Act is a fundamental right of every Nepalese citizen. Will it help the government clamp down on basic rights?
Instead of focusing on two pressing national agendas, one of settling down the communist rebels and the other of helping write a new constitution, the Nepal government headed by Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is instead creating hurdles against their fulfillment.
At a time when Dr. Bhattarai is expected to build political consensus on critical issues, he is seen provoking his adversaries by making inept decisions on non-expedient matters.
His government recently recommended a presidential pardon for a party colleague proven guilty of murder by the court of law. Furthermore, the government legalized 10,000 cases of property and financial deals made during the armed conflict, without approval from regular registration offices. It raised public anger by its unscrupulous handling of fuel pricing and supply. The government is also blamed for the untimely measure of road expansion in the capital. The latest decision regarding classification of information is also deemed disastrous.
In making all these decisions, the government has been irresponsible and has antagonized politicians, students, civil society and journalists.
If the decision of the government on the information classification was final then the media in Nepal would be left with very little to report except phony speeches of ministers reminiscing days of strict information control under absolute monarchy. The government unexpectedly resolved to block information on 140 subjects from the media and circulated an order to all government branches to implement the decision with immediate effect. The act virtually sent an electric shock in the media world as it curtailed the freedom of press granted under the incumbent interim constitution and challenged the right to information act of 2007.
The act empowers the government to withhold information that could potentially have a serious impact on national security, sovereignty, territorial integrity, peace and order, international relations, communal harmony and individual privacy. However, the 140 subjects in question do not pertain to these topics.
Additionally, the government identified a long list of subjects for