KATHMANDU, Aug 31: Press Council Nepal has drafted a Journalists Code of Conduct that allows surveillance by the media watchdog body over the personal social media accounts of journalists.
According to the proposed code of conduct, which is ready for unveiling on September 23 after feedback from the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), social media posts by journalists relating to unverified information could constitute violation of the code.
The council can write to the government agencies concerned to bar journalists involved in code violation from media accreditation and also deprive them of benefits under the social security schemes.
“News, information, opinions and updates disseminated by journalists and media organisations through social media should be factual, balanced and of respectable nature,” reads the draft of the updated code of conduct proposed by the PCN.
“They should verify the facts when posting on social media themselves and weigh impartiality while sharing or re-twitting any information, comments or opinions of other social media users,” the code states.
The Media Code of Conduct promulgated in 2016 had allowed the council to monitor only the media content.
“Journalists who make mistakes repeatedly will be blacklisted as is done in the banking sector. Media practitioners writing, commenting and posting likes haphazardly on social media could be hauled in under the code of conduct . Electronic media that has not been registered or that disseminates sensational, unverified or misleading content could be suspended for a certain period,” Kishor Shrestha, acting chair of the PCN, wrote on his Facebook Friday.
The proposed monitoring of social media posts of journalists has raised the question whether that could infringe the freedom of expression of journalists as private individuals.
Shiva Gaunle, former president of the FNJ, said, “I wonder whether the council can even afford to monitor the personal social media accounts of so many journalists, especially as this is such a vague matter.”
The council may recommend non-renewal of the registration of a media house, deprive it of state facilities, and also write to the government agencies concerned to exclude from online media any media content that infringes the code of conduct .