KATHMANDU, May 18: Journalists across the country staged protest against the Media Council Bill on Friday saying that the bill squeezes independent media and press freedom.
In Kathmandu, they staged sit-in protest near the parliament at New Baneshwar and in districts they demonstrated in front of the district administration offices at noon. The protests were organized by the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), the umbrella body of journalists. Civil society members, human rights defenders, politicians, and various professionals also joined the protest.
We resorted to street protest to safeguard democracy, human rights and freedom of the press and expression because the authorities did not heed our concerns when we approached them in a civil fashion. -- Govinda Acharya, president, FNJ
The journalists displayed placards reading 'journalism is not a crime' and placed communication equipment including cameras, recorders, pens and dairies on the ground to protest against the 'regressive' legislation.
The controversial Media Council Bill registered at the National Assembly secretariat has provisioned up to Rs 1 million penalties for publishing content in violation of the media code of ethics issued by the council. Given the government's upper hand in the appointment and termination of the head and members of the council, journalists and stakeholders fear that the authorities could misuse such laws to keep the media critical of the government under the thumb of the authorities.
“We resorted to street protest to safeguard democracy, human rights and freedom of the press and expression because the authorities did not heed our concerns when we approached them in a civil fashion,” said FNJ President Govinda Acharya. He further claimed that the movement of the journalists will not end unless the demands are addressed.
Journalists and stakeholders have also protested against various provisions of the Information Technology Bill and Advertisement Bill which are under discussion in parliament. Similarly FNJ has also demanded a review of the Mass Communication Bill that the government is set to register at the parliament secretariat.