Press Council's grilling of editors against jurisdiction and a misuse of authority: Freedom Forum

Published On: August 19, 2018 07:17 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Aug 19: Freedom Forum (FF) has said it has been alarmed by the grilling of editors of national dailies by Press Council Nepal (PCN).

PCN officials on Thursday grilled Editor-in-Chief Gunaraj Luitel of Nagarik daily, and Editor Akhanda Bhandari of the Annapurna Post daily, in breach of its jurisdiction.

“If there is any concern over media content, PCN can draw the attention of the editors, analyze whether the news is against journalists' code of conduct, and if so, it can urge the media not to violate the code. But, grilling, threatening, and taking action is beyond it's jurisdiction,” the Freedom Forum said in its statement on Friday. “Such move in a democracy is a blatant misuse of authority to harass journalists and discourage free media.”

Freedom Forum chief Taranath Dahal said the recent activities of the government and its agencies have been hostile to free media. “Harassment of editors by government agencies is not only detrimental to editorial freedom but also panics the entire media fraternity,” said Dahal. 

The incident coincided with the day the new Civil and Criminal Codes came into effect. According to Dahal, such misuse of authority by state agencies is counterproductive to democratic system. 

“FF, therefore, strongly urges the PCN to work within its jurisdiction and respect democratic culture and not spread panic in the media,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, president of the Federation of Nepali Journalists and also a member of the Press Council, Govinda Acharya has filed a complaint against another Press Council member and editor of Sanghu weekly Gopal Budathoki for publishing a misleading news item. In the complaint filed against Budathoki, Acharya said that the news item published about him headlined 'Leader of Journalists' attend a meeting by chartering helicopter' on the front page of the weekly was false and misleading. Acharya claimed that the news violates media code of ethics. 

Acharya filed a complaint against Budathoki on Monday while the FNJ also registered a complaint against Budathoki at the council on Tuesday for publishing misleading news against its chairman.  

A member of the council said that the council is making preparations to act on the complaints lodged against Budathoki.

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