TITLE: Nepal government trying to hide corruption with new information policy Slug: Nepal information secrecy Reporter

: Sunil Neupane Date: 8/2/2012 INTRO Nepal’s Right to Information Act is under pressure, with the government accused of trying to hide corruption. Recently campaigners used the Act to expose what may be the biggest fiscal crime in the country’s history. But last month the government announced a change in policy that puts much more information off-limits.. For the moment, the policy is temporarily suspended after an order from the Supreme Court to delay its implementation. But Freedom of Information campaigners are afraid that the new policy could be reactivated, and help the government to hide corruption cases. Sunil Neupane reports from Kathmandu. TEXT The new information policy, issued last January, was announced after campaigners exposed a multi-billion dollar tax fraud, implicating big businesses and influential parliament members. The scandal came to light after campaigners filed a Freedom of Information petition to the independent National Information Comission. That forced the government to reveal information it was holding on tax evasion cases. The NGO Freedom Forum filed the original petition. Taranath Dahal is the president.. TARA CLIP 1(MALE, ENGLISH): “Because of using the right to information tools, lots of corruption-related cases were exposed. One is very alarming VAT scam. Using the fraud bills, more than 500 industrialists and trading companies were taking million and millions money from the government treasury. I used the Right to Information Act for exposing the investigative

that’s one sure way to control corruption.” According to Transparency International’s Corruption Index. As an anti-corruption activist. from the watchdog group Transparency International. the Supreme Court ordered the government not to apply the policy . last year Nepal was the second most corrupt country in South Asia. This is a temporary measure – the Court still hasn’t made its final ruling. but more than two and a half billion US dollar is allocated there every year under the name of ‘local development’.report from the Finance Ministry. AASHIS CLIP 1 (Male. Shiva Gaule is the president of Federation of Nepalese Journalists. When the report has disclosed. NEPALI): “Now there are no government body in local level for one decade. the anti-corruption wave was there. However after the scandal emerged. If the government is trying to use the new policy. so campaigners say there’s still a lot to fight for. Aashis Thapa. we can say that the government is trying to hide corruption issues using this type of unconstitutional guide. It promotes transparency and if you have free-flow information to the people. believes that this shows the government is trying to hide corruption cases. This increased the number of categories of classified information from five – up to 140. saying that it was against the constitution.” Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has given positive signs that he will amend the policy. Nepal’s 2007 Interim Constitution guarantees citizens’ access to information. the government issued a new information policy. But then in February. Journalists are threatened and beaten in many places trying to find out whether the money is used properly or not.” This was considered a landmark case for Freedom of Information legislation in the country – although no-one has been arrested so far. English): “The right to information is a basic element of the good governance. SHIVA CLIP 1 (MALE. This would make it virtually impossible for campaigners and journalists to reveal corruption cases. This is a huge level of corruption. . He believes the investigation of Nepal’s widespread corruption needs all the help it can get. this is a great alarm that this kind of classification aimed at curtailing right to information to the people has come out from the government.

” Freedom Forum President Taranath Dahal is hoping that the Supreme Court will defend people’s basic rights. I'm ready to correct that. I think the Supreme Court will dismiss this unconstitutional anti-legal classification guideline. claims that he is still a victim of the policy. I'm also from the background of journalism so I've no any intension to hide the information. NEPALI):”This is not only going to apply in Nepal. TARA CLIP 2 (MALE. the new policy is supposed to be suspended. They’re still using the new information policy. But Prakash Subedi. ENGLISH): “If the classification of information will be implemented. It is international practices to classify the information. against the democratic value. the situation will be terrible – against the transparency. If there are any weaknesses. against the open culture. PRAKASH CLIP 1(MALE.BABURAM CLIP 1 (MALE. For the moment. government authorities won’t provide information to us because they say it’s their right not to. who works for an NGO focusing on good governance. Under that policy. I hope that. But they refused to hand it over and said that this is classified information. . NEPALI): “Recently we asked for information from a government hospital about their tenders for medical supplies.” For Asia Calling I'm Sunil Neupane from Kathmandu.

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