Kathmandu, June 11
The Federation of Nepali Journalists has announced its third phase of protests demanding withdrawal of the controversial Media Council Bill from the Parliament.
According to FNJ, the bill has provisions that curtail press freedom.
A meeting of the FNJ central committee today concluded that two previous phases of its protests concluded successfully on Saturday, and it has announced fresh protest programmes.
Issuing a statement today, the FNJ stated that the provisions in the bill were included with an intention of controlling the press, and that the bill was against ‘complete press freedom’ guaranteed by the constitution in its preamble.
As per the freshly announced protest programmes, the FNJ will run a signature campaign throughout the country on, June 18. The signatures collected will then be submitted to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, through district administration offices, on June 21.
The umbrella body of journalists will organise a cartoon exhibition on June 25, against the Media Council Bill. On June 30, district chapters of the FNJ will draw attention of respective lawmakers and provincial assembly members towards media unfriendly provisions in the bill.
The FNJ will organise a massive gathering for press freedom on July 5, and will organise a lantern rally on July 10. Finally, the FNJ plans to organise a nationwide whistle rally on July 15 to protest the draconian bill.
The FNJ, in its statement said it would organise an emergency protest on any day the government tabled the bill in the Parliament.
The bill related to constituting Nepal Media Council has proposed to impose a fine up to one million rupees on media outlets, editors, publishers and journalists if they are found guilty of damaging someone’s reputation.
Section 18 (1) of the new bill stipulates that if any media publish contents in contravention of the code of conduct, and if an investigation launched after the complaint finds that such news contents had damaged the reputation of the complainant, the council can impose a fine between Rs 25,000 and one million rupees on media outlets, publishers, editors and reporters.
Section 18, sub-section (2) of the bill stipulates that the council can order the erring parties to pay compensation, if the content published by media outlets damages the reputation of the affected party.
Section 17 proposes punishment for violating the code of conduct,which includes suspending press pass of mediapersons and downgrading the classification of print media outlets.
The bill also proposes to form a committee under a government secretary to recommend the chairperson of Nepal Media Council, which stakeholders say will relegate the Nepal Media Council to a branch of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The bill has elicited discontent from different quarters of the society besides mediapersons.
A version of this article appears in print on June 12, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.