Nepal government drafts harsh provisions to Media Council Act

New provisions to the Media Council Act were tabled by the Nepal government on May 9, which will further tighten control on media in the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Nepal Press Union (NPU) have strongly criticized the harsh provisions and called on the government to consult media stakeholders and revise the changes.

According to My Republica, the Bill to Amend and Integrate the Media Council Act was registered by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on May 9, and will have wide ranging implications for the media. Under the proposed provisions, media can be fined up to NPR 1 million (USD 8850) for publishing content in violation of the media code of ethics. Under Section 18, media outlets, publishers, editors and/or journalists can be fined up to NPR 1 million for publishing content found to be tarnishing the dignity or reputation of any individual.

According to the bill, any individual can file a complaint against media and journalists at the council, accusing them of violating the code even if he/she is not personally affected by the media content.

NPU said that the provisions in the bill endangers jobs of the majority of journalists and converts journalism into praise-machinery. The aim of the bill is not to promote journalism but to censor it. If the bill is passed along with the mass communication bill, which also have provisions critical to press freedom, the press freedom and FOE will see an eclipse.

The IFJ said: “The harsh provisions proposed in this bill will have wide reaching implications for press freedom in Nepal. The media cannot operate in an environment of fear and intimidation, which would be created by many of these proposed changes. We call on the Nepali government to conduct consultations with media stakeholders and revise the provisions immediately.”

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