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Freedom Forum Concerned over Govt. Attempt to Ban Screening of Badhshala film

Freedom of Expression Update

Freedom Forum has been deeply concerned over the government's efforts to ban the screening of a Nepali feature film named Badhshala.

The government led by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal Maoist (UCPN-Maoist) has time and again emerged hostile to media freedom and freedom of expression. The Ministry of Information and Communication's attempt of late to ban the film is therefore a latest series of the suppression on freedom of speech and expression.

The Communications Ministry on January 18, 2013 wrote to the Film Development Board asking it not to provide screening license to the Badhshala film merely on the ground that a uniform of Nepal army was used in the film.

"The use of army uniform is an art which does not affect the security. But in the name of security, Ministry's directive to ban the screening of film breaches the international norms of freedom of expression and human rights," says Taranath Dahal, Chairperson of the Freedom Forum.

It is worth noting that the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:  "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Meanwhile, Talking to Freedom Forum, Director of the film Badhshala, Manoj Pandit says, "I've depicted the growing impunity based on the facts. How can't I produce the film that features the serious human rights violation? Government's move has breached the democratic norm thereby dampening the future of Nepali film. It is time to see the film not merely as the source of entertainment but for information."

According to him, the script of the film was already permitted and all legal permissions were sought under the one-door policy of the Film Development Board- a state agency to monitor the film.

Lately, Nepali film industry has witnessed the production of fact-based films depicting national political problems and human rights violation. But the government's attempt to ban the screening of such film has grossly violated the freedom of expression thereby running the democratic norms and values.

Therefore, Freedom Forum condemns the government move and urges the Communications Ministry to withdraw its directive so as to respect citizen's right to freedom of expression and right to information.