NA members pledge to amend Media Council Bill

Kathmandu, August 14

Chairperson of the National Assembly Ganesh Timilsina today said political parties and the Federation of Nepali Journalists had decided to forge consensus on the disputed Media Council Bill after it drew flak from the media fraternity and stakeholders.

Speaking at an interaction organised in Kathmandu, Timilsina said, “Political parties and FNJ have agreed to move ahead by amending controversial provisions in the bill. We have been holding discussions with the FNJ.”

Vice-chairperson of the Upper House Shashikala Dahal said the National Assembly would hold clause-wise discussions on the bill to ensure that it didn’t contravene the spirit of the constitution, which guarantees full press freedom.

Dinanath Sharma, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) parliamentary party leader at the National Assembly, said the lower house would also provide full autonomy to the media council proposed by the bill through its amendment.

“Process to form the council will be amended and we will move ahead by forging a consensus with FNJ on quantum of punishment,” he said.

The bill registered by the government in the Upper House of the Parliament on May 9 included controversial provisions such as fine up to one million rupees for an erring journalist, which FNJ said was aimed at curtailing media freedom. Section 18 (1) of the new bill stipulated that if any media published contents in contravention of the code of conduct and if an investigation launched after the affected party’s complaint found that such news content 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.

Section 18 (2) of the bill provisioned that the council could order the erring parties to pay compensation if the content in media damaged the reputation of the affected party.

Surendra Pandey, Nepali Congress parliamentary party leader at the National Assembly, urged all to rest assured about press-friendly bill as the ruling party had expressed its commitment to incorporate suggestions of FNJ in the proposed law. NCP Chief Whip Khimlal Bhattarai assured of amending the bill on the basis of suggestions provided by FNJ. NC Chief Whip Sarita Prasai suggested that all political parties should stand united for press freedom.

FNJ President Govinda Acharya stressed the bill and all laws related to media should be in compliance with international democratic norms and values, and spirit of the constitution. He urged the National Assembly to be alert against any ploys to curtail press freedom in the country.