Kathmandu, June 18
The Federation of Nepali Journalists today launched its third phase of protest against the Media Council Bill tabled by the government in the Federal Parliament.
A press statement issued by the FNJ said nationwide signature campaign was initiated to exert pressure on the government to withdraw the bill that aimed to gag the media. “The FNJ announced the third phase of protest after the government took lightly the first and second phases of its protest programmes, organised on June 8 and June 12,” the statement read.
The FNJ informed that its central office, district office and associate chapters would conduct a signature campaign for three days and submit the signatures to Prime Minster KP Sharma Oli through the concerned district administration
offices, on June 21. It has also appealed all journalists, media, professionals, political parties, civil society, rights activists and general public for their active participation in the signature campaign.
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. The bill has drawn flak from all corners, including journalists and other stakeholders.
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 draconian bill also allows a government-controlled Nepal Media Council to replace the existing Press Council Nepal to curtail the press freedom, instead of empowering it. Stakeholders are also demanding that violation of code of conduct should not be made a serious crime as media themselves should act as self-regulatory bodies.
A version of this article appears in print on June 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.