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Media fraternity pleased‚ but doubt incentive plan

  Many say scheme benefits media owners more than journos

HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE

KATHMANDU: Some from the media fraternity welcomed the government’s plan to bring relief package for media by offering them some incentives, while others doubt the government’s ‘intention’.

Some said it was the government’s attempt to appease media houses and journalists at a time when the media has become critical of the government’s atrocities, especially in the case of attempt to protect murderers of journalist Dekendra Thapa. While, some others have welcomed the move and said the government should give the media the full status of an industry.

As most of the 10-point package addresses media houses, especially media owners, some media practitioners said that it was more media owner-oriented and less concerned with working journalists.

The Himalayan Times, on Monday, had published an exclusive story about the government’s plan being considered by the Social Committee of the Cabinet. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, at a regular programme — Prime Minister With People — of Radio Nepal, said yesterday that the government was planning to bring the relief package as revealed by yesterday’s media with an intention to improve the media sector as it was facing serious problems.

“As media houses are facing crisis due to extreme power shortage and high operation costs, any relief package is welcome for us,” said RK Manandhar, chairman of Television Broadcasters Association.

However senior journalist Yubraj Ghimire sensed the government’s move as motivated with the idea of appeasing the media.

Ghimire said, “This is out and out a move by the government to bribe media houses, their owners and individual journalists. In order to maintain highest standard of journalism and professional ethics, they all should refuse to take any advantage of this bribe the media campaign launched by the government.”

Ghimire said perhaps the FNJ also should wait for a regular government to sanction the amount for its building construction.

Chairman of Broadcasting Association of Nepal Bishnu Hari Dhakal said that the government should give the media as the full status of industry. “The media will be entitled to enjoy many facilities such as subsidised rate of electricity, subsidised tax and other incentives after it is given the status of industry legally. As it reduces the media’s operation cost, it will help to enhance the quality of journalism and pay journalists their salary regularly,” Dhakal said.

Although, the media sector has boomed after the reinstatement of democracy in 1990, the government has not yet given the sector the status of industry.

FNJ chairman Shiva Gaunle said if the government really wanted to support the media sector it should include arrangement for journalists’ welfare fund, support journalists who have become victims of conflict and provide insurance for journalists.

Community Radio Broadcasters Association Chairman Min Bahadur Shahi said that there should be discussion on the package as it was still debatable whether the media should accept the government support at present.

The relief package includes treating the media sector at a par with industry by reducing the existing 25 per cent income tax to 20 per cent, reducing the customs duty on news print from five per cent to 2.5 per cent, exempting the previous tax, subsidising bank loan, exempting 25 per cent customs duty while importing vehicles and providing money to FNJ for its building construction.

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