The Federation of Nepali Journalists has taken a serious objection to decision to continue the process to pass the Public Service Broadcasting Bill without incorporating the suggestions of the stakeholders.

Issuing a press release today, the umbrella organisation of journalists said the government had advanced the controversial bill with proposal to maintain its ownership over the public media in contravention of the international norms and generally accepted principles of public service broadcasting. The previous government led by KP Sharma Oli had proposed to further tighten its control over the public media. As per the international practice, a government doesn't operate media business in a democracy.

"Instead of revising provisions contained in the bill so as to transfer the ownership of stateowned Radio Nepal and Nepal Television to the people and make them accountable to the Federal Parliament, the incumbent government has decided to continue to procedure to pass the bill drafted by the previous KP Sharma Oli-led government without any changes to it as suggested by the stakeholders," read the press release.

The FNJ said it was alarmed by the provisions in the bill. "This bill contravenes to the existing Mass Media Policy. The ploy to pass the bill without incorporating the suggestions of the stakeholders exposes undemocratic attitude of the government and its intolerance to the media the government," said the FNJ.

It has demanded that the government immediately withdraw the bill which is currently under deliberation in the National Assembly, while urging the lawmakers to move it forward with the consent of all stakeholders.

The government had repeatedly expressed its commitment to free the state-owned Radio Nepal and Nepal Television from its ownership, but in vain.

According to the FNJ, definition of public service broadcasting and provisions related to formation of Public Service Broadcasting Council, its objectives, organisational structure and appointment of officials are not in compliance with the norms of public service broadcasting.

If the bill is passed without revision, the bill will pave the way for the government to exercise more control over Radio Nepal and NTV and make them more loyal to it. The bill proposes that the minister or state minister shall be the chairperson of the Public Service Broadcasting Council and secretaries and persons appointed by the government shall act as its members.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 14 2021, of The Himalayan Times.