Kathmandu, May 15
The National Human Rights Commission today said its attention was drawn to the Media Council Bill registered by the government at the federal Parliament on May 10.
In this context, NHRC held a discussion with representatives from the Federation of Nepali Journalists today.
FNJ officials told the rights body that the constitution process of media council as stipulated by the bill would have adverse impact on its
Provisions in the bill of giving exclusive power to the media council to investigate into alleged violation of code of conduct, impose fine or penalty and specify compensation to journalists or a media house was contrary to the universal judicial norms and values, they said.
FNJ reiterated provision articulated in the proposed bill that only a judicial or a quasi-judicial body had the power to impose penalty or fine, was motivated by the government’s intention to curtail the press freedom.
The NHRC said press freedom, human rights and rule of law were integral parts of democracy.
“Press freedom has been guaranteed by the constitution. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2A of the constitution have stipulated provisions on right to freedom of opinion and expression to every citizen,” the rights body said in a press release.
According to Article 19 of the UDHR, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to articulate one’s opinions without any interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.
“Free, responsible and dignified journalism contributes to accountability and protection and promotion of human rights. Effective protection and promotion of human rights strengthens democracy. Regulation is not an inappropriate measure in itself. But curtailing press freedom in the name of regulation can never be in conformance with the norms and values of human rights,” the NHRC warned.
“Culture of human rights can be strengthened by maintaining the dignity of democracy and that is possible only if the proposed media council is capable of monitoring and regulating press freedom independently,” according to NHRC. The NHRC is convinced that the attempt to impose restriction on the autonomy of the existing Press Council Act through alteration of its provisions will be in contravention of basic norms and values of human rights and rights to expression,” the release states.
The NHRC also urged the government and all stakeholders to modify the bill after holding consultation and discussion on its controversial provisions in a way that didn’t curtail the press freedom and citizens’ right to freedom of expression.
A version of this article appears in print on May 16, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.