Nepal Backs Off Implementing Controversial Access Restrictions

10 February 2012

The government of Nepal has decided not to implement a controversial classification scheme following strong objections from civil society groups that it would undercut access to information.

The prime minister has “assured” the leaders of groups protesting the planned changes that there will be wider stakeholders’ consultation before having new classification, according to an announcement of the decision by the Citizens’ Campaign for Right to Information.

Critics objected that the classification rule listed 24 categories of secrets, along with 116 types of information to be declared to be secret, many of which were considered vague and unclear. It further provided that secrets established by other laws would be preserved and would allow the Cabinet to classify any document  secret.

The restrictions were opposed by the National Information Commission, the Federation of Nepali Journalists, Freedom Forum and the Citizens’ Campaign for Right to Information. The  Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt to the classification pending its review. Not date for a hearing has been set.

A letter was sent from the office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers to all ministries telling them not to implement the new classifications, which came into force on Jan. 15.

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