After stakeholders concern over objective and validity of the directive, separate three members committee was formed by Ministry of Information and Communication (MOIC) to review the directive and recommend suggestion for upcoming version. The review committee members were Press Council’s Chairman Borna Bahadur Karki, Former FNJ’s Chairman Dr Mahendra Bista and Online Journalist Association Chairman Prabesh Subedi. The Committee submitted its report on date July 18, 2016.
Then, new OMOD was promulgated on March 20, 2017. Though new directive was said to incorporate the suggestion from the committee, but it had no any fundamental difference from the earlier version.
Freedom Forum has been reviewing the directive from the time MOIC floated the proposal as ‘Online Media Operation and Management Directive’ to which FF showed serious concern noting that it was faulty and discouraging to right to freedom of expression and internet-based media, which is gaining ground with the gradual expansion of internet in Nepal.
With regard to this, FF prepared a study report on OMOD 2017, and also engaged in a way to file Writ petition in Supreme Court dated February 17, 2017 stating the fact that the ground for the OMOD is unconstitutional and it restricts the practice of freedom of expression via internet platform in Nepal. Although the writ was registered, hearing date has not been fixed yet.
Parliamenterian Radheshyam Adhikari himself pointed out that OMOD is teeth less instrument as it is just to show that there is a government document that is made in order to guide the online news portal.
He also accepted the fact that online media is an emerging issue and it will gradually displace the paper media but he still has concern regarding that whether online media should not it be kept under state jurisdiction or made entirely independent; if there is an editorial board for each and people have easy excess to it rather than other forms.
He had asked “In what manner are online and offline media different?”, he further questioned.
Responding to his query, FF’s Media Monitoring Officer Narayan Prasad Ghimire presented the fact that internet penetration in Nepal has risen up to 53% so it has larger penetration than other older forms of media. Among the news published both online and offline; offlines are often ignored whereas, online news get separate treatment.
Parliamentarian Radheshyam Adhikari appreciating FF’s concern again added that declaring the directive null and void can be an option but state may find out other way to regulate the online media platform. FF can also analyze the international practice as how online media are being regulated throughout the world, he suggested.
Other Parliamentarians Teka Nepali and Lal Bahadur Rawal said that this is a serious concern raised by FF hence, they will also work ahead to bridge the gap between legal standard and directive.
Sanjeeb Ghimire, a member of review report further added that same kind of news in online and offline media should not be treated separately. State responsibility is to provide constructive environment for the practice of the right not to make unreasonable restriction using directive as tool to curtail the right mentioned in constitution itself.
OMOD has been introduced under the Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act-2017. The report is prepared based on the reliability of the directive with constitutional and international standards. FF’s main concern lies on the action of government introducing the media law being based on Governance act and making it the parent act of OMOD. Thus OMOD should be immediately declared ultra virus and be repealed as soon as possible.