Nepal | January 16, 2021

EDITORIAL: Don’t gag the press

The Himalayan Times
Share Now:

A govt-appointed body can never qualify to monitor the Nepali media, unless the government’s intention is to gag it and have it tow its line

The government’s bid to control the media through a new bill that has just been registered in the Parliament has kicked up a storm already, and it would be in its interest to withdraw it at the earliest. The bill on constituting the Nepal Media Council is aimed at silencing the media by slapping heavy fines, of upto Rs 1 million, on media outlets, editors and journalists if they are found ‘damaging someone’s reputation’. The free media in Nepal has never been establishment-friendly, often annoying it to the extent possible. Hence, the new bill’s provisions are aimed at punishing the press under the veil of regulating it. The bill intends to have total government control of the council, which will be dangerous for press freedom. Should the government succeed in pushing the bill through the Parliament, it will be no more than a toothless wing of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, working at its beck and call. Doing away with the practice that is in vogue, a committee headed by a government secretary is to recommend its chairperson, making him or her just another member of the bureaucracy. Secondly, the council will no longer be in a position to enforce its rules and directives without the approval of the line ministry.

True, there have been violations of the media code of conduct at times, and media ethics has also been compromised. But then, the history of the free press in Nepal dates only from 1990, with the ushering in of multi-party democracy in the country after overthrowing the partyless Panchayat system. And in the last thirty years, if there is one sector that has seen phenomenal progress, it is the media. The media has not lagged behind in informing the public of day to day events and taking up issues that are often a source of uneasiness to the government, business community and others. If the government thinks that by controlling the media all things will fall in place, then it is making a big mistake. The provisions of the bill go against the national and international norms and also the constitution of Nepal.

A government-appointed body can never qualify to monitor the Nepali media, unless the government’s intention is to gag it and have it tow its line. The constitution of the Nepal Media Council cannot be like the constitutional commissions, which are often headed by a retired judge or a bureaucrat. The council’s chairperson should be someone with media experience, and the government should have no business in his or her appointment. The government must understand that the media is responsible to its readers, or rather the public, not to the authorities. The weaknesses that are inherent in the media must be addressed, no doubt, and for this the media industry should come together to appoint a strong regulating, monitoring mechanism to enforce the code of conduct. One way to hold the media to account could be to strengthen the Libel and Slander Act, for instance. The media houses could also bolster their in-house mechanisms. The essence of democracy lies in building consensus among the stakeholders. In this, the government seems to have erred by registering the bill in the Parliament.


Set up blood banks

Most of the remote districts in Far-West and Karnali provinces do not have blood banks. This has caused great difficulty to the patients, who need fresh blood to save their lives. Due to the absence of blood banks, mostly the new mothers and others who have to undergo surgery suffer the most. When the patients need fresh blood, it is the security personnel of the Nepali Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force who provide fresh blood to the patients.

A report from Bajura said a new mother of Pudasain village was rushed to a nearest health post following excessive bleeding while giving birth to a baby. But she was referred to the district hospital as her treatment there was not possible. However, doctors at the Martadi-based district hospital could save her life after receiving fresh blood from an AFP man. Every time a civilian needs fresh blood in the remote districts, it is only the security personnel who donate blood to save the lives of the locals. Considering the plight of the local people, it has become imperative that the provincial governments take the initiative to set up blood banks at convenient locations so that needy patients could get fresh blood easily.

 


A version of this article appears in print on May 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Photo Gallery: NC student cadres demonstrate against House dissolution

Kathmandu, January 15 Seen in the pictures below are youth activists affiliated to the main opposition Nepali Congress taking part in a tug of war during a protest against the dissolution of House, in Kathmandu, on Friday. On December 20, PM Oli recommended the dissolution of House of Represen Read More...

Sixth meeting of Nepal-India Joint Commission held in New Delhi

KATHMANDU: The sixth meeting of Nepal-India Joint Commission was held in New Delhi, India on Friday. Nepal's foreign minister and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs of India, co-chaired the meet as leaders of their respective delegations today. In a pr Read More...

From net bowler to test debut, India's Natarajan continues fairytale journey

BRISBANE: T Natarajan's fairytale trip to Australia continued on Friday when the left-arm quick, who arrived as a net bowler, became the first Indian player to make his international debut in all three formats during the same tour. Known for his pinpoint yorkers, which troubled batsmen in the Ind Read More...

Constitutional bench to adjudicate House dissolution case

KATHMANDU, JANUARY 15 The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana today ruled that cases field against the dissolution of the House of Representatives would be heard by the same bench continuously from Sunday. The SC passed the order after hear Read More...

At least 42 dead as Indonesia quake topples homes, buildings

MAMUJU, INDONESIA: A strong, shallow earthquake shook Indonesia's Sulawesi island just after midnight Friday, toppling homes and buildings, triggering landslides and killing at least 42 people. More than 600 people were injured by the magnitude 6.2 quake, which sent people fleeing their homes in Read More...

Biden: We'll 'manage the hell' out of feds' COVID response

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE: President-elect Joe Biden pledged Friday to boost supplies of coronavirus vaccine and set up new vaccination sites to meet his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days. It's part of a broader COVID strategy that also seeks to straighten out snags in testing and ensure minority com Read More...

Dahal-Nepal faction to seek clarification from prime minister

KATHMANDU, JANUARY 15 Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal today decided to seek clarification from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli for acting against the party’s objectives, goals, programmes, and statute. NCP Standing Committee member Bhim Bahadur Rawal Read More...

Rooney stops playing to take Derby manager job permanently

All-time record scorer for England and Manchester United. A haul of 16 trophies. Wayne Rooney's illustrious playing career is over. Former England and United captain has decided it's time to focus on trying to replicate his successes as a striker in management. After taking temporary charg Read More...