Siromani DhunganaLecturer (journalism and mass communication)Tribhuvan University, Kathmandusiromanidhungana@gmail.com | firstname.lastname@example.orgJanuary, 2013
Getting Started Constitutional Protection against Censorship "No publication and broadcasting or printing of any news items, editorial, article, writings or other readings, audio-visual materials, by any means including electronic publication, broadcasting and press, shall be censored…” “Radio, television, online or any other types of digital or electronic means, press or any other communication media shall not be closed, seized or their registration be cancelled because of publishing, broadcasting or printing any material by such means of audio, audio-visual or electronic equipments…” --Article 15, Interim Constitution of Nepal 2006
What is censorship?Censorship in all its forms is often unjustifiable and is used simply to stop truths or ideas emerge, which draw attention to the powerful people or governments or undermine ideology. This is inexcusable. -Article 19Censorship is “[the] policy of restricting the public expression of ideas, opinions, conceptions, and impulses, which are believed to have the capacity to undermine the governing authority or the social and moral order which authority considers itself bound to protect” -Henry J. Abraham
Some more definitions of censorship“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.” - Henry Steele“Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads.” - George Bernard Shaw“Censorship in any form is the enemy of creativity, since it cuts off the life blood of creativity: ideas.” - Allan Jenkins- “Censorship reflects a societys lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” - Potter Stewart
Censorship can take many forms:compulsory licensing schemes;mandatory pre-publication review;imposition of gag orders during the pendency of a legal proceeding;extraordinary taxes or fees;Withdrawal of legal protection that would ordinarily be granted to other businesses or citizens.The threat of post-publication sanctions, such as criminal fines or incarceration, can be as intimidating and crippling to the ability of a news organization to operate as any prior restraint. (From: Media Law Hand Book Series published by United States Department of States)
Types of censorship:Political, religious, obscenity, and censorship affecting academic freedom are all equal in their destructiveness towards free speech. There are two different forms that censorship takes--prior, which refers to advance suppression and post facto which is suppression after publication.
Prior restraintPrior restraint (also referred to as prior censorship or pre-publication censorship) is censorship imposed, usually by a government, on expression before the expression actually takes place. An alternative is to allow the expression to take place and to take appropriate action afterward, if the expression is found to violate the law, regulations, or other rules.
Once again in NepalIs the country least censored one?Constitutionally, the country enjoys complete press freedom. However, film censorship is still a great problem in country. In Nepal, the state has established a censor board which has the authority to scissor scenes which it feels objectionable/harmful to the society and the state. It even has the power to deny certification to movies and impose a total ban on movies if it finds them unsuitable for the state and society.
Film censor in NepalFilm Censor Board: (1) Government of Nepal may constitute a Film Censor Board or committees as per necessity to inquire whether or not it is appropriate to grant license to exhibit any motion picture pursuant to Section 8. Each board shall have a chairman and members as nominated by Government of Nepal. They shall assume their posts up to the period as prescribed by the Government of Nepal. - Motion Picture (Production, Exhibition and Distribution) Act - 1969
Article 8 of Motion Picture Act8. Censor of Motion Pictures:(1) Any person who has obtained the license shall make an application to the Film Censor Board in the format as prescribed before the exhibition of any motion picture and the Board shall also censor such motion picture and decide whether to give permission as per below :- (a) To permit the said motion picture to exhibit publicly without prescribing any condition. (b) To permit to exhibit publicly subject to any alteration, modification or abiding by any other conditions and restrictions. (c) To permit prescribing the condition that the said motion picture shall be exhibited publicly for the adults above the age of sixteen years or (d) Refuse permission to the motion picture for public exhibition.
Article 8…(2) The Film Censor Board shall give reasonable opportunity to the applicant to express his view prior to making the decision whether or not the permission be given under clause (b), (c) or (d) of sub- section (1).(3) If any motion picture or any part thereof is found to spread aversion or enmity or which may jeopardize the security, peace and order of Nepal or harm the harmonious relation subsisting with the foreign states or the peoples of various castes or tribes or which may cause negative impact to the public interest or decent behavior or morality or defame any person or contempt of court or incitement to any offence, the Motion picture Censor Board shall not permit such motion picture to exhibit. Provided that if the motion picture is not found prejudicial to this sub-section after having altered or modified any part of the motion picture, the Film Censor Board may grant certificate to exhibit the motion picture.
Article 8…(4) If Government of Nepal thinks that the motion picture already permitted by the Film Censor Board for exhibition may be prejudicial to sub-section (3), Government of Nepal may, at any time, direct to stop the exhibition of the motion picture or may order to exhibit the same with alteration or modification as deemed necessary.(5) Any person who is aggrieved by any decision of the Film Censor Board made under this Section may appeal before Government of Nepal within thirty-five days of such decision.
Film should be categorizedInstead of imposing ban on films, the government should categorize them preserving rights of children and other groupsUnless or otherwise the film directly harms the society, the censor board should not impose ban on filmsThe government should keep film censor board out of political influenceAn independent mechanism should be developed to categorize films
Censorship during recent pastCensorship during 2001 emergency In November 2001, the government led by then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, imposed a state of emergency, introduced a sweeping anti-terrorism ordinance, and called out the army to counter the mounting threat posed by Maoist rebels. Each of these actions had serious repercussions for the press in 2002. Under the state of emergency, in effect until 2002 August, press freedom and other civil liberties were suspended. The anti- terrorism ordinance -- formally known as the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance and commonly referred to as TADO -- allows for the arrest of anyone in contact with or supportive of the rebels. More than 100 journalists were detained during 2002 under these broad provisions, which remain in force. The government also introduced reporting guidelines, banning anything that is likely to create hatred against then Royal Nepal Army, police, and civil servants, and lower their morale and dignity.
Censorship during King Gyanendra’s ruleNepals King Gyanendra followed suit in 2005, when he assumed full power on February 1 and began censoring hundreds of media outlets, especially the many independent radio stations, and arresting truckloads of journalists.Kathmandu was cut off from the rest of the world as communication lines, including mobile, Internet, long distance calls remained suspended for the second day.Press censorship was imposed with the suspension of the right to information and foreign news channels were off the cable networks.The king suspended several provisions of the Constitution, including freedom of the press, speech and expression, peaceful assembly, the right to privacy, and the right against preventive detention, a statement from the royal palace said.
Toward Self censorship?A total of 147 incidents of press freedom violation occurred in Nepal during 2012. -Freedom ForumNepali journalists are bound to work amid a spate of attacks, threats, harassment and obstructions and without physical safety and professional security. No significant policy has been brought by the government to encourage free press and create environment for freedom of expression propelling journalists to control themselves.
Impunity fueling self-censorship35 journalists have been killed since the conflict began in 1996, while three are still missing. -Federation of Nepali JournalistsDue to emergence of armed outfit in various parts of the country, self censorship has been common phenomenon. The government is not committed to take action against guilty in various anti-press incidents.
Question of corporate pressure?Another aspect of censorship is corporate censorship. Big media corporation throughout the world try to influence media by providing advertisement. Reporters cannot write the information they acquire due to corporate pressure. Reporters have started feeling corporate pressure while writing news in Nepali media industry.
In the end“A free press can of course be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom it will never be anything but bad. … Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better, whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worse.” -Albert Camus“If the press is not free, if speech is not independent and untrammeled, if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen.” -U.S. Sen. William E. Borah
Paper Presented at Madan Bhandari Memorial College, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu Thanks to Amendra Pokhrel for assisting in preparation of this paperSiromani Dhungana can be contacted at:Email: email@example.com| firstname.lastname@example.orgFacebook: Siromani DhunganaTwitter: dsiromaniLinkedIn: Siromani DhunganaBlog: siromanidhungana.wordpress.com