A discussion program “Situating Civic Space in Lumbini Province,” was virtually organized on June 28, 2021.

In the discussion, participants highlighted the needs to reform the laws and proposed bills in the provincial parliament that restricts civic space.

The participants were of the view that the laws related to media and registration of social organization that was drafted in the province hold restrictive provisions.

Presenting the paper, researcher, and civil society activist Gopal Prasad Bashyal said that proposed bill and passed laws that regulate civil society in the Lumbini Province is based in the intention to control the civic space.

He pointed out that laws regarding media hold the provision of restriction that endangers freedom enjoyed by the media. Based on his findings he outlined the need to revise and amend the laws that are inconsistent with the constitutional provisions.

In the virtual discussion Minister for Internal Affairs and Law of the Lumbini Province Chet Narayan Acharya pledged commitment to amendments in any laws that affect civic space in the province. He outlined the necessity to regulate the media, but the government has no intention to gag the press.

Minister Acharya agreed that further discussion was necessary with the stakeholders, and amendments can be done in the proposed bill. He also pointed out the need to rethink in the issues pertaining to national interest and integrity, discrimination based on caste and others that incites violence while advocating on freedom.

Speaking at the program, Whip of the Nepali Congress at Lumbini Province Assembly Nirmala Chhettri pointed out in congruence with respect to making of laws in three tiers of government. She said federal, province and local government have not been able to demarcate the concurrent and shared power as per the constitutional provisions.

Chhettri said that the laws that curb freedom of the press should be passed by the assembly; the opposition party will continue to speak for the independent media rights.

Chairperson of Lumbini Province NGO Federation Govinda Regmi pointed out the problems of registration of civil society Act passed by the province assembly. He said that the Act could not come into practice as the federal government institution and agency did not recognize the civil society organization that was registered based on the Act passed by the province assembly.

He further stated that Ministry of Home Affairs have sent a circular to all the District Administration Office to continue the registration and renew of the civil society organization stating that constitutional provision of residual power rests upon federal government as the concurrent/shared powers of federal, province and local level have not been defined.

Regmi was of the view that registration of civil society organization in all the three tiers of the governing structure is tedious and not practical. There should be one law that guides the overall civil society organizations said Regmi.

The online discussion program was participated by 35 participants from different NGOs, researchers, and journalists from the Lumbini Province.