Govt to table toned-down media bill

Published On: August 13, 2019 06:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Aug 13: The government is preparing to take the Media Council Bill forward, addressing the key concerns raised by the media fraternity and other stakeholders. These concerns include provisions regarding autonomy, penalties and the formation process of the media regulatory body.

The decision on forwarding the bill was taken following a meeting on Monday among the minister for communication and information technology, the chairperson of the National Assembly and key leaders from the ruling and opposition parties .

“The government has realized the need for revision in some provisions of the bill. Suggestions from all walks of life can be incorporated to improve the bill,” said Information Minister Baskota. “I have urged parliamentary officials to arrange for the tabling of the bill at the upcoming meeting of the House.”

After controversy over various provisions in the bill sparked protests by journalists, the government had to stall it. Minister Baskota had registered the bill at the upper house secretariat back in April.

The meeting between upper house office bearers, the information minister and ruling and opposition party leaders ended with an understanding to table the bill at the National Assembly at the earliest, said party leaders. But Surendra Pandey, Nepali Congress parliamentary party leader in the upper house, said they have sought a meeting between Prime Minister K P Oli and NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba to nail down the former's commitment prior to the tabling of the bill.

“The minister has reiterated his commitment to revise the bill to address concerns raised by our party and the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ). We have sought the same kind of commitment from the prime minister as well,” said Pandey. “If the prime minister is ready to revise the bill we will be ready for deliberations on it.”

Earlier, the FNJ had withdrawn its month-long protest demanding withdrawal of the bill, after leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) gave a written commitment to address the journalists' concerns through parliamentary processes.

In a three-point commitment letter to the FNJ, NCP Chief Whip in the National Assembly Khimlal Bhattarai promised to address the concerns of journalists over provisions regarding fines and the autonomy of the media council, among other issues.

Journalists and other stakeholders were agitated over provisions in the bill to fine them up to Rs 1 million if they are found violating the 'media code of ethics' and to form a state-controlled media watchdog body with semi-judicial powers, among other things.

Stakeholders had expressed serious concern over the proposed structure of the council , stating that it gives sole authority to the government to appoint and remove its head and members .

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