KATHMANDU, Jan 31: The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) has demanded removal of the provision on mandatory licensing examinations for aspiring journalists in the Nepal Media Council Bill, stating that the proposal is against the spirit of the constitution.
The umbrella organization of journalists in the country has warned it will not accept the Media Council to be formed under the proposed legislation.
Issuing a statement on Thursday, FNJ General Secretary Ramesh Bista demanded further amendments to the bill by the upper house of parliament before it is forwarded to the House of Representatives for endorsement.
“The FNJ has serious objections over the newly added provision for licensing examinations by state agencies for prospective journalists although the bill has partially addressed other demands put forth by it,” the statement reads. “FNJ demands immediate removal of the objectionable provision because it goes against not just the spirit of the constitution but also against freedom of the press.”
Earlier, the FNJ had withdrawn its protests against the Media Council Bill last July following a written commitment from ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders to revise the bill in line with the demands of journalists.
In the three-point commitment letter to the FNJ, NCP leaders in parliament had promised to address the concerns of journalists over the provision for hefty fines and over the autonomy of the media council, among other issues.
Although the Legislation Management Committee of the upper house, in which the ruling party lawmakers are in a majority, removed the provision for up to Rs 1 million in fines against journalists violating the ‘media code of ethics’, the committee added the new provision on licensing exams earlier this week.
“FNJ and the media fraternity may not feel obliged to accept the Media Council if it is formed against the spirit of the constitution, the established practices of freedom of expression and of the press, and international standards,” reads the FNJ statement.
The FNJ has proposed a self-regulatory mechanism from the media houses themselves for ensuring journalists abide by the code of ethics, a provision in the bill paving the way for the media council to open its offices in the provinces, and ensuring its independent role, among other things.
Likewise, FNJ has also suggested a provision of removing the council chairperson on complaints against his/her wrongdoing based on the recommendation of an independent probe committee and allowing only victims to register complains against journalists instead of any individual as proposed in the bill.
The FNJ has also suggested naming the council as Press Council instead of Media Council.