Kathmandu, October 11
Province 3 lawmakers have registered amendment proposals on the Media Management Bill tabled by the provincial government in the Provincial Assembly on Sunday.
Registering the amendment proposals yesterday, the provincial assembly members representing the Nepali Congress, Bibeksheel Sajha Party and Rastriya Prajatantra Party claimed that the bill had provisions that aimed to curtail press freedom and contradicted with the federal law that was being revised.
Of the total 58 sections of the bill, the lawmakers have proposed amendments to 17. Provincial assembly members have proposed complete removal of Section 4 of the bill which provisions ‘nobody should broadcast any programme without acquiring approval in line with this law’.
They have also proposed completely removing Sections 11; 12; 16(A); 17(E, F and G); 20; 44; 50; 51; and 52.
As per Section 11, the provincial government can bar a media outlet from broadcasting contents for six months considering constitutional provisions and national
interest. Likewise, Section 12 states that the provincial government can scrap approval if a media outlet broadcasts any content that violates the law.
Section 16(A) states that media outlets cannot run advertisements that would be adverse to political parties, while the Section 17 (E, F and G) states that media outlets cannot broadcast contents carelessly, should include views from parties in controversial contents, and cannot broadcast false and misleading contents.
As per the Section 20, newspapers should register with the chief district officers concerned, whereas the section 44 states all the domestic and foreign media outlets should submit details (name, qualification and work area) of their representatives deputed in the province to provincial registrar.
Similarly, the Section 50 of the bill says if media outlets violate the law a case will be filed by the provincial administration. Not only the media, the bill has also sought to regulate book publication. As per Section 51 of the bill, a book writer should submit two copies of the book before its publication to the registrar for record. Similarly, the Section 52 states a book publisher should clearly state in the book the details of publisher, editor, writer or translator, press and copyright holder.
The lawmakers have also proposed completely removing Section 26 given it has already been included in the constitution. The section states that the government cannot remove newspapers from its record or scrap approval for any content published, including news, articles, photographs and editorials.
In Section 46, the lawmakers have proposed removing the term ‘one year jail or both’ from ‘if anybody broadcasts any content without taking approval from provincial authority,
the person will be slapped with fine equivalent to the registration charge or one year jail or both’.
Bibeksheel Sajha Party Lawmaker Ramesh Paudyal, who registered the amendment, said the bill clearly exposed the government’s intention of controlling freedom of speech and press freedom. “Imposing curbs on the media, which have played crucial roles in every political change in the country, can never do well to democracy,” he said.
On the other hand, the lawmakers said the provincial government coming up with a media management law resulted in duplication, as the federal government already had the same.
NC lawmaker Tshiring Dorje, who also registered the amendment, asked why media outlets should register themselves with the provincial governments after registering with the federal government as per the federal law.
Media experts said the bill with such a wide scope at a time when the federal law was being revised was in itself was controversial.
Freedom Forum Chief Executive Tara Nath Dahal said, “The bill is not only trying to impose curbs on journalism, but the overall freedom of expression because it also has provisions on book publication,” said Dahal. “This is nonsense.”
A version of this article appears in print on October 12, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.