Kathmandu, June 8
Hundreds of working journalist today took to the street at Babarmahal-Maitighar road segment, forming a human chain to protest against the Media Council Bill tabled in the Parliament.
The journalists gathered in the street to express solidarity with the second phase of protest organised by the Federation of Nepali Journalists. Some of the journalists covered their mouths with black bands in symbolic protest. The FNJ has been demanding withdrawal of the draconian bill since it was tabled in the Parliament on May 10.
According to the FNJ, the bill stipulates controversial provisions such as imposition of fine of up to one million rupees on journalists if they are found guilty of damaging someone’s reputation. The bill aims to curtailg press freedom, say experts.
The bill has drawn flak from all corners including journalists and other stakeholders.
It allows a government-controlled Nepal Media Council to replace the existing Press Council Nepal to curtail 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.
During protest, journalists held placards and shouted slogans demanding complete freedom of press and right to freedom of expression.
FNJ President Govinda Acharya warned that the FNJ would launch stringent protests if the bill was not withdrawn.
Acharya also warned of creating an independent regulatory body if the bill was endorsed without addressing FNJ’s concerns.
Former FNJ president Suresh Acharya said it was unfortunate that journalists who contributed to ensure democracy in the country had to fight for press freedom.
“Government’s conduct is undemocratic. If the government continues its undemocratic practice, all journalists should be ready for all kinds of protests,” he added.
Similar commitment was expressed by Dharmendra Jha, another former FNJ president. He said, “The bill must be withdrawn. It aims to strangulate democracy achieved after a long struggle.”
Editors of major print media, online news portals and television channels also expressed their solidarity with the FNJ’s protest and joined the human chain. Speaking at the programme, Editor of Nagarik Daily Guna Raj Luitel said, “Our protest is not only for journalists, but also for people’s right to freedom of expression.”
Journalists are protesting against the Media Council 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.
A version of this article appears in print on June 09, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.