Kathmandu, February 7: Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission Anup Raj Sharma said freedom of expression was at the heart of human rights and the two were inseparable.
Sharma also said the government had failed to take any initiative to implement the recommendations it made earlier.
“The government is attempting to bring the rights body under its purview without endorsing its proposal for reforms and amendment to the NHRC Act, to make the law contemporary. Transitional justice is in peril. Conflict victims continue to await justice,” he said.
He said child marriage, chhaupadi practice, allegations of witchcraft, gender-based violence and human trafficking were still rampant in the country. “Children are deprived of education and health services. Caste and gender discrimination, intimidation of sexual minorities, discrimination between women and men in issuing citizenship certificate have hit the human rights situation,” he said.
Sharma said political parties were responsible for rising corruption, abuse of authority and culture of impunity in the country, which he said was likely to make democracy a matter of past.
Speaking at an interaction on ‘Status of Freedom of Expression and Human Rights’, Sharma said no power, law and force could stop a person from ventilating his/her views. “Freedom of expression is one of the basic human rights. It is very unfortunate to make freedom of expression a topic of discussion,” he said.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom to articulate one’s opinions without any interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers,” reads Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sharma said free press and freedom of expression were two sides of a coin. The constitution has guaranteed the right to freedom of expression to every citizen.
Sharma underscored the need to uphold the right to freedom of expression to protect and promote human rights and press freedom in line with international norms and values. Nepal is one of the member states of United Nations and a member of the Human Rights Council.
The NHRC chief recalled the commitments made by the Government of Nepal in the council regarding the protection and promotion of human rights as well as other core issues associated with them. Nepal is scheduled to present its third cycle of Universal Periodic Review on its human rights records to the council in November. All member states are required to submit factual report on human rights to the council.
The report should reflect the real picture of the human rights situation. In order to take stock of current human rights situation of the country, the NHRC had organised seven provincial programmes, 18 district-level programmes and eight thematic programmes, besides reviewing the implementation status of recommendations made by Universal Periodic Review.