KATHMANDU, May 25: At a time when journalists and media stakeholders are protesting various provisions in the Media Council Bill now registered in parliament , the press freedom advocacy organization Freedom Forum has suggested amendments to 20 provisions in 15 sections of the bill.
Freedom Forum has suggested appointing a retired justice of the Supreme Court as head of the proposed media council. The bill has provisioned that the government shall appoint a journalist with a bachelor's degree and 10 years of experience in the relevant field as chairperson of the council.
Similarly, two lawmakers from the lower house and one from the upper house recommended by the speaker and the chairperson of the National Assembly respectively should be members of the council, as per the suggested amendments.
The president of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), a professor or associate professor of the journalism department at a university, one senior journalist from each of the seven provinces, three journalists elected by FNJ and three noted personalities with experience in human rights, gender inclusion, languages, mass communications, management or research are recommended as members of the council.
The bill registered at the National Assembly secretariat has provisioned that the Ministry of Communication and Technology shall appoint members of the council, in addition to the FNJ chief and a joint secretary at the ministry. Journalists and stakeholders had opposed the provision authorizing the government to hire and fire council members, thereby allowing government intervention in the media watchdog body.
The chairperson of the Development and Technology Committee of parliament is proposed as coordinator of the recommendations committee while one senior journalist nominated by the ministry and the chief of the Mass Communications and Journalism Department of Tribhuvan University are proposed as members, in the draft suggestions by Freedom Forum.
Instead of imposing monetary penalties of up to Rs 1 million as proposed in the bill, Freedom Forum has suggested an amendment whereby a journalist involved in violation of the media code will be asked to make a public apology or face black listing or the publishing of his/her name .
It is also suggested that the government can draw the attention of the council instead of issuing necessary directions.
“We have proposed corrections in the formation process of the media council and suggested inclusion of working journalists, academia, media consumers and also representatives of the provinces in the watchdog body,” said Sanjeeb Ghimire, program manager at the organization. “The suggested amendments aim at leaving the government aside in the formation and operation of the council.”
Freedom Forum has submitted the proposed amendments to the bill to influential lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties in both the upper and lower houses of parliament.
Earlier, the proposed bill provisioned that a secretary of the ministry will he coordinator of the recommendations committee and a noted individual in the communications and technology field as well as a senior journalist appointed by the ministry will be members of the committee.