The third plenum of the Federation of Nepali Journalists held in Daman of Makawanpur discussed matters related to the preparation of its three-year action plan and the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the media sector.

The plenum also dwelt on press freedom, restructuring of FNJ and overall interest of working journalists in the present scenario. Stating that the country has yet to witness significant improvement in the situation of freedom of press and expression, it decided to hold discussion with stakeholders regarding the proposed media laws. FNJ also maintained its firm stance on the norms and values of human rights, rule of law, independent judiciary, social justice, periodic elections and healthy political competition.

The plenum decided to demand that the government to bring to justice the perpetrators of murder, disappearance and physical assault of journalists, put to an end to cases of press freedom violations and fully implement the prevailing laws to prevent harassment and intimidation of journalists.

The umbrella organisation of journalists objected to the various media laws being enacted by the federal, provincial and local levels unilaterally without the consent of FNJ and other stakeholders. FNJ warned that it would defy laws enacted in a unilateral way.

Recently, FNJ had condemned the government's move to push forward the Public Service Broadcasting Bill without incorporating the suggestions of stakeholders. It said the government had advanced the controversial bill with the proposal of maintaining its ownership over the public media in contravention of international norms and generally accepted principles of public service broadcasting. As per international practice, a government should not operate media business in a democracy.

Instead of revising some provisions contained in the bill 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 endorsed the same bill drafted by the erstwhile KP Sharma Oliled government.

The plenum also unanimously decided to continue agitation to pressure media houses and the government to address the problems facing journalists amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "FNJ will hold discussion and coordinate with the government to increase the minimum monthly salary of working journalists," read a press release.

In yet another decision, FNJ announced that it would launch a special campaign for membership purification with a roadmap.

"Details of each member and the organisation he/she is affiliated to will be published on the website to ensure that non-journalists have no place in FNJ," it read.

FNJ has demanded that the government make a provision for distribution of monthly subsistence allowance to journalists who have attained 60 years of age or have served n the field of journalism for at least 30 years continuously, with effect from the running fiscal.

Though the government has already set up a fund of Rs 60 million for this purpose, it has yet to be implemented.

Likewise, FNJ has called on the government to announce a special budget package for the media and working journalists affected by the pandemic and issue press accreditation cards online.

The incumbent government has endorsed the same bill drafted by Oli's government

A version of this article appears in the print on August 29 2021, of The Himalayan Times.