KATHMANDU, May 22: Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) President Gobinda Acharya has threatened to form a parallel Press Council comprising journalists, media experts and stakeholders if the government refuses to revise the controversial media bills.
The head of the FNJ, umbrella organization of Nepali journalists, also said the federation may invite an international media mission to Nepal to study the state of press freedom. “Since there is already a provision of inviting international media mission, we can do that,” warned Acharya speaking at a function organized by the Center for Media Research Nepal to release a book titled "Media Policy and Law in Federalism: Review and Recommendations". “We expect the government will revise those laws before we resort to our last options."
President Acharya said the federation rejects the recently drafted media bills and threatened to form a parallel press council with 'the mandate to formulate media ethics, enforce ethics and monitor news contents'.
Even as the constitution ensures full freedom of the press, some of the bills drafted by the government have proposed confiscating media equipment and imposing hefty fines on media outlets and journalists. Journalists across the country have been protesting against the bills.
A Bill to Amend Media Council Act, which was currently brought at the National Assembly, has proposed a fine of up to Rs 1 million for media outlets and journalists for publishing any content in violation to the media code of ethics. Under Section 18 of the Bill to Amend and Integrate Media Council Act, media outlets, publishers, editors and/or journalists can be fined up to Rs 1 million for publishing contents found to be tarnishing the dignity or reputation of any individual.
Likewise, the 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.
The book has analyzed the recent media laws formulated by the federal and provincial governments and suggested amendments.