Kathmandu, May 23
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota today said the government would not withdraw the Nepal Media Council Bill from the Parliament.
Baskota said at a weekly press conference today that the government would follow the parliamentary process to pass the bill.
Media sector, civil society, human rights institutions, international communities, opposition parties and even some leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have opposed the bill, saying it would curtail press freedom. Principal opposition party Nepali Congress has demanded the government withdraw the bill.
The bill, registered in the upper house of the Parliament on May 10, proposes to impose a heavy fine on erring journalists, editors and media ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 million.
Critics say the bill which proposes to replace existing Press Council with Media Council will relegate the regulatory body to a department of the government.
Press Association of Nepal, a sister wing of the ruling NCP, presented a memorandum to Baskota during the press briefing opposing the Media Council Bill’s contents. In its six-point demand, PAN stated that the bill’s provisions on penalty and fines should be removed. It also asked the government to remove the provisions of the bill that curtailed Media Council’s autonomy and independence.
Baskota said the government had taken PAN’s request positively. He, however, tried to justify the bill saying that penalty proposed in the bill was for those who violated rules and regulations. He said only those mediapersons who violated the code of conduct would be penalised.
He added that lawmakers elected by the citizens would not pass any laws against the constitution. He said media should also observe self-regulation by creating their own ombudsmen.
Baskota claimed that the government had no intention of controlling media or curtailing press freedom.
A version of this article appears in print on May 24, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.