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Government should not have any kind of control over media: Journalists

Government should not have any kind of control over media: Journalists

Press freedom fighters and journalists on Wednesday said that the government should not have any kind of control over media in any pretext in a democracy.

They said so during a dialogue held on The Media Council Bill in Kathmandu on Wednesday.

“The Media Council Bill must give due space for an independent media industry,” they said.

They pitched that the proposed Media Council (that will be replacing the existing Press Council) should be independent, accountable to citizens and liable to the Parliament, expressing concerns over the ‘likelihood’ of its establishment as a government entity.

Sharing his assessment about the Bill before the gathering, advocate Santosh Sigdel urged the government to deal with the Bill through the perspective of press freedom, which is vital for the effective implementation of the Constitution. He sought clear space in the Bill for the establishment and promotion of an independent media industry.

Giving his view against the concept of ‘decent journalism’ envisaged by the Bill, he said that it is not the job of the government to set limitations for media in the name of decent journalism. It will promote moral policing against media and it is up to media to practice and promote responsible journalism.

Senior journalist and press freedom fighter Taranath Dahal said “The Bill sees the proposed Media Council as a part of the government. However, it must be established as an independent media regulatory body with its liability towards the parliament.”

Expressing his reservation to the special provision about the appointment of the Council Chairperson (Clause 15), he said seeking the role of bureaucrats (secretary) in the hiring and firing procedures, is not something desired by the media industry and the media persons. This role should be shared with the legislature as well, proposing the involvement of the National Assembly Chairperson and a House of Representative member in the appointment. Some provisions in the Bill are regressive, he added.


Another senior journalist Suresh Acharya cautioned that the media sector will not be accepting the Bill if it is passed in its current form. The Council should remain under the regulation of the Parliament, not the government. State’s control over media contents can’t be entertained under any circumstances.

Senior journalist Nirmala Sharma argued that inclusion in each state structure is the agenda of the State, as envisaged in the Constitution. The proposed Media Council should address the issues in the same spirit. Any Bill either it is the Media Council or others, is constitutionally bound to strengthen democracy and press freedom, she added.

Press Council Nepal’s Chairperson Balkrishna Basnet said no state structure could be established going against the Constitution. He also proposed that the Bill should address the issue of digital journalism.

The Bill is presently under discussion in the National Assembly’s Legislation Committee, after it was tabled before the upper house by the government on April 18 earlier this year.

During the discussion, lawmakers along with the Chairman of the Legislation Committee of the National Assembly Jayanti Devi Rai said that the mistakes and weaknesses in the bill would be amended.

Rai assured that the Committee will take feedback of the participants over the Bill seriously and try to adjust them thereby, ensuring its wider acceptability.

Kamala Devi Pant, a member of the National Assembly, promised not to allow the bill to be passed beyond the questions raised by the concerned parties in the bill. He promised to proceed with the discussion based on the suggestions and study papers.

Member of the Legislative Committee and Chief Whip of the National Assembly from UML, Bhagwati Neupane promised to make the expert's suggestions the main topic of the committee's discussion.

Member of the Legislative Committee, Narayan Datta Mishra said that the Media Council Bill is being discussed by their interests and expression. He said that it should be debated keeping in mind freedom.

In the program, members of the National Assembly, Rajendra Lakshmi Gayre, MPs, Sushila Shrestha, Nar Bahadur Bista, former members of the Legislative Committee, Anita Devkota and others expressed their views on the Bill.

A total of 29 people including parliamentarians, experts, journalists and lawyers participated in the program.

The dialogue was organized by the Nepal FM Network with the support of UNDP Parliamentary Support Project.