Kathmandu, May 25
Editors of major print media, online news portals and television media and members of Federation of Nepali Journalists have demanded withdrawal of Media Council Bill from the Parliament.
The government on May 10, had registered the bill at the Parliament which includes controversial provisions such as fine up to Rs 1 million for an erring journalist, which aims at ‘curtailing media freedom.’ As many as 42 editors had gathered expressing solidarity at a programme organised today by the Federation of Nepali Journalists, the largest umbrella body of journalists in Nepal as per FNJ’s pre-scheduled protest programme.
Editors also said Press Council Nepal should be an autonomous body provided with jurisdiction to facilitate the press and not control media.
They also said that violation of code of conduct should not be made a serious crime, as media themselves would act as self-regulatory bodies.
Chairman of FNJ Govinda Acharya said that their first demand was the withdrawal of the bill from the Parliament.
He also said they were willing to support the government if it was willing to amend the bill as proposed by journalists.
“Let the government invite all the stakeholders for an open discussion about the provisions in the bill, and we will withdraw our protest programmes.”
FNJ has also submitted a written demand to the speaker of the House of Representative for addressing their demand in the bill. Chairman Acharya said that the journalists’ protest was being supported by stakeholders from all sectors throughout the country. “FNJ will take this movement wherever we can take it,” he added.
Acharya also said that any journalist who opposes the right to freedom of expression and right to free press should be barred from leadership of FNJ, in the future.
Dilip Thapa Magar FNJ vicechair said that the government must not make any rules on the basis of code of conduct.
“Code of conduct is a matter of self-discipline, the government must withdraw the stringent rules in the bill to punish journalists for violating code of conduct.”
Editors reminded the government about the role of media in establishing democracy in the country during the long political turmoil in the past.
Guna Raj Luitel editor of Nagarik National Daily said, “It is a matter of utter sadness that journalists are subjected to punishment for writing news.”
“That does not mean journalists can write whatever they want for they should follow self-censorship code of conduct,” clarified Luitel.
Prakash Rimal editor of The Himalayan Times stressed that the government should withdraw the bill as it was unlikely that amendment could address all the issues raised by journalists.
“The government should withdraw the bill as cosmetic changes wouldn’t address the concerns raised by journalists led by the FNJ.” He also stressed that Press Council Nepal should ‘facilitate the press, not control it.’ Rajendra Dahal, editor of Shiksha Monthly and former chair of FNJ said that the PCN should not act as if it was a body for controlling crime. “The PCN is not a body for controlling crime. That is the duty of government bodies.
The PCN should be an autonomous body with authority to facilitate the press,” Dahal said.
The preamble of the constitution of Nepal that encapsulates the fundamental principles and philosophy of the constitution, states that the country’s press shall enjoy full freedom.
Journalists are protesting the current bill stating that if the bill is passed as it is they will not be able to write anything against the prevailing corruption, anomalies and malpractices.
The error in the headline has been corrected (from ‘medical’ to ‘media’) in the online version of the news. We apologise to our readers for the inadvertent mistake and the inconvenience it has caused.
A version of this article appears in print on May 26, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.