Kathmandu, September 13

Secretary of Media Society, Nepal Madan Lamsal, urged the political parties to ensure full press freedom in the new constitution.

Addressing a protest programme organised by the Federation of Nepali Journalists here today, Lamsal said although the word ‘full’ was added to the draft constitution ahead of the word ‘freedom’ , the draft constitution, however, did not ensure full press freedom. Lamsal said the press had a reason to worry as the word ‘full’ was not mentioned along with the word ‘press freedom’ mentioned under the chapter of fundamental rights.

“We are not saying that there must be a mention of ‘full press freedom.’ What we are saying is that it should be clearly mentioned in the constitution that there should be no restriction on the press. But the draft constitution does not say this,” he added.

Lamsal said two Constituent Assembly members -- Mina Pun and Aindra Sundar Nembang -- had registered their amendment proposals on the draft constitution demanding clear mention of ‘full press freedom’ in the constitution and that the major parties should consider these proposals.

Lamsal said press freedom was more important as this freedom is exercised by organizations and not individuals. He said when the media organizations advocated for full press freedom, they did not advocate that the press should have the right to write or express anything.

“Press has its own code of conduct and it should abide by those codes,” he added, “But it is the responsibility of the Press Council to ensure compliance of code of conduct, not the police or the government.”

Lamsal said the current structure of the Press Council should be reformed to make it more competent and autonomous so that it can prevent misuse of press freedom. He also said that there was no need for a separate law to prevent misuse of press freedom.

Opposing the government’s plan to bring a separate law to place restrictions on press freedom, Lamsal said this still left the possibility of restricting press freedom.

He said press freedom was as important as the independence of the judiciary as far as the protection of citizens’ rights were concerned. He said that the dictators who want to censure democracy target press freedom first. “Where there is no press freedom, there is no political freedom,” he added.