Nepali Journalists Protest Against Media Council Bill, Demand Immediate Withdrawal
The Media Council Bill aims to give more authority to the government to impose monetary fines on media outlets found guilty of damaging anyone's reputation.
File photo of Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.
Kathmandu: Hundreds of Nepali journalists on Friday held a massive rally, demanding immediate withdrawal of the proposed Media Council Bill, that aims to curtail press freedom by imposing strict penalty on media outlets.
Nepal has proposed the new media bill aimed at imposing a hefty fine up to Rs 1 million on media outlets found guilty of damaging anyone's reputation, raising alarm among journalists who say the government seeks to punish the press in the name of regulation.
The new Media Council Bill aims to replace the existing Press Council Act and will have more authority to issue hefty fines and give the government more say in the hiring and firing of the council members.
The journalists, who protested under the banner of Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), held the rally carrying placards and also encircled streets in front of the Kathmandu District Administration Office.
Similar protests were also held in other parts of the country that was organised by the FNJ.
"The journalists across the country are participating in the third round of protests organised by the FNJ to oppose the Communist government's move to limit press freedom and to suppress freedom of speech," Ramesh Bista, general secretary of FNJ, said.
The rally was also attended by several editors of prominent dailies of the Himalayan nation.
Narayan Wagley, editor of Kantipur national daily, said, "The protection of press freedom is also the protection of the Constitution".
"It is not fair to limit press freedom, which is part of the civil rights. Our movement is aimed at protecting people's right to information guaranteed by the Constitution," he said.
National and international media watchdogs, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), have also expressed their serious concerns over some of the provisions in the Bill, saying that the provisions of the bill have wide-ranging implications on the media.
Gunaraj Luintel, editor of Nagarik daily, said that any government that works against the free press cannot last longer. Yuvaraj Gimire, another senior journalist, said the proposed media bill is undemocratic and anti-media so journalists cannot accept it.
Another media law, Bill on Mass Communications, has proposed Rs 5 million to Rs 10 million in penalties or 10 to 15 years in jail or both for journalists publishing or broadcasting any content undermining national sovereignty, territorial integrity or nationality.
The bill has also proposed confiscation of media equipment if the media outlets and journalists are found publishing offensive contents.
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