Nepal | September 24, 2020

Lawmakers urge government to remove proposed fine on mediapersons


Jagdishor Panday
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MP Bimala Rai Paudel has sought licence system for journalists to maintain professional standards

Kathmandu, September 2

Lawmakers of both ruling and opposition parties have asked the government to remove fine on mediapersons to be imposed by the Media Council in the Media Council Bill proposed by the government for violating code of conduct.

Eight amendment proposals have been registered at the National Assembly by lawmakers representing ruling parties — Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and Samajwadi Party-Nepal, and opposition parties Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal.

The amendment proposals have sought that the provision of fine between Rs 25,000 to one million provision on media outlets, publishers, editors, journalists and reporters be scrapped from  the bill proposed by the government.

The bill stipulated a provision that if any media published news contents in contravention of the code of conduct, and if an investigation launched after the affected party’s complaint found that such news content had damaged reputation of the complainant, then the media council could impose fine between Rs 25,000 and one million rupees on media outlets, publishers, editors, journalists and reporters.

The bill states that the council can order erring parties to pay compensation if the content in media has damaged the reputation of the affected party.

The amendment proposal registered by NCP lawmakers led by ThagendraPrakashPuri stated that the fine provision should be removed. Instead of fine, the lawmakers have proposed that the problems be solved with the help of a mediator.

The proposal registered also stated that the media council should be an independent and self-regulatory institution.

Whereas, three NC lawmakers led by SaritaPrasai, chief whip of the parliamentary party at the National Assembly, registered an amendment proposal stating that the guilty party would have to make a public apology or else be blacklisted for the offence committed. “No publisher shall be punished for such offence,” the proposal read.

NCP lawmaker BimalaRaiPaudel, in her separate amendment proposal, has stated that if necessary, a case could be forwarded to the High Court. She also sought licence system for journalists to maintain their quality.

Earlier, the bill had drawn heavy flak from opposition parties, the media fraternity and stakeholders. So, taking into account the concerns of the media fraternity and stakeholders, the lawmakers registered amendments.

The NC proposal stated that the media council should be chaired by a person with qualification equivalent to that of a Supreme Court justice instead of a person with qualification of bachelor’s degree and the person should have work experience of a minimum of 10 years. “There should be at least two members, including a lawmaker of the main opposition party and a woman, as members of the council,” it read.

The NC has demanded that the president of the Federation of Nepali Journalists be nominated as member of the council.

NCP lawmakers have also proposed a provision in the bill that those who have been working for 15 years in the field of journalism be rewarded with the position of senior journalist on the recommendation of the media council.

The proposal added that the head office of the media council would be in Kathmandu and other sub-offices of the council could be opened in the headquarters of provinces in the future.

A version of this article appears in print on September 03, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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