With the successful conclusion of all three tiers of elections in line with the new Constitution, Nepal now has fully transferred in to the federal setup. In the changed political and administrative context, the Government of Nepal is in the process of drafting and amending laws to make them consistent and relevant to the national charter.
With this in background, Freedom Forum has traced down some of the laws related to freedom of expression and information, communications, privacy and internet freedom that are being drafted and amended by the newly formed government. Some of the laws identified are listed below.
1. Mass Communications Bill 2074 BS (2018 AD)
This draft bill has been consolidated to regulate the entire communications sector in a single umbrella act. The bill aims to revoke three existing acts related to communications sector namely, Press and Publication Act 2048 BS (1991), National Broadcasting Act 2048 BS (1993) and Working Journalist Act 2051 BS, (1993). The bill has envisioned the establishment of National Mass Communications Authority for regulating license and professional ethics as well as self-regulation of the media houses. The bill has envisioned the setup of new institutions such as National Mass Communication Training Academy, media/ journalism museum and information bank as well as journalist welfare fund among others.
2. Public Service Broadcasting Bill, 2074 BS (2018 AD)
Public Service Broadcasting Bill-2074 has been proposed in order to establish an independent public broadcasting authority that would broadcast neutral and unbiased news, views, and information promoting health, education, entertainment content that would help in the protection and promotion of citizen’s knowledge and empower them on several issues concerning public services, rights, and entitlements.
The bill has envisioned public service broadcasting authority as an autonomous body bearing rights and duties at its own disposal. The bill has also provisioned an Ombudsman Committee to redress the complaints filed against the service of the authority itself.
3. Advertisement Regulation Bill, 2074 (2018)
Advertisement Regulation Bill 2074 has been proposed in order to regulate the display and advertisement of goods and service in regard to production, distribution and market operation via mass communications or any other mediums. It aims at protecting the public interest issues related to advertisement. The bill has attempted to regulate hoarding board advertisement, advertisement by communications medium, free advertisement etc. District Court has been given the jurisdiction to look after the cases against advertisement act.
4. Bill consolidated to amend Right to Information Act 2007
Government (Office of Prime minister and Council of Minister and MoCIT) has come up with the draft bill of Right to Information (RTI) Act 2018 which aims at amending the existing RTI Act 2007. The amended bill has incorporated new provisions to align its laws with changed context of federal Nepal. The draft has amended the Sub-section 3, 6, 7 and 9 of Section 2 of the act. As per the amended part in section 5 sub-section 4, every public body has to update and publish the information in every four months that is ‘three months’ in the existing law. Also the public information officer has to publish the updated information in website each month. The commission has to give the final verdict on the appeal within 90 days instead of 60 after its submission as per the new draft. If any person does not obey the act or information officer the commission may impose fine up to Rs 10,000 (around 100 USD) and commission would recommend the institution to take action against him/ her. Also the chief of public body that denies giving the information should face the compensation of Rs 5,000 (around 50 USD) as per the amended act.
5. Bill consolidated to define Work, Rights and Duties of the Information Commission, 2075 ( 2018)
A separate bill has been proposed to define the works, rights, and duties of the National Information Commission. The bill focuses on the establishment of information commission as the regulatory body of RTI and has defined the perks and benefits provided to the commissioner along with their rights and duties.
6. Privacy Bill, 2017
Nepal Law Commission has been drafting a separate Privacy bill as in accordance with Article 28 of the constitution that guarantees Right to Privacy as a fundamental right. This is the first time the separate act related to privacy is being drafted as Right to Privacy was guaranteed in the constitution of year 2047 and 2063. The bill is yet to be finalized by the commission. Separate committee has been established in order to finalize the draft bill of Privacy. The bill has incorporated the definition of the privacy and aims at criminalizing the act that breaches the privacy of citizen.
7. Cyber Law Bill and ICT Bill, (2018)
Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has come up with a 100-day work plan where it has mentioned that the cyber law bill and ICT bill will be finalized after the discussion with the concerned stakeholders. As per the press release published by the MoCIT in its website, the first round of discussion has already been held with the stakeholders on 17 April 2018 regarding the bill and the components that need to be included in it. Nepal Telecommunications Authority had drafted the Cyber Crime bill before yet it was not made public.
8. Press Council Amendment Bill, 2074 (2018)
Press Council Nepal has come up with an amendment bill of Press Council Act 2075 B.S that aims at amending the existing Press Council Act 2048 B.S. Several provisions have been amended as per the “need of the changed context and advancement of technology in media”. New emerging field of broadcasting sector including online media has been incorporated in the act along with the other necessary amendments. The time when media should be promoted for the practice of self-regulation, the amendment of the act has made the council more regulatory in and more government role can be observed in selection committee of the board member and setting rights and duties of the council. This brings government domination in board and council may lose its autonomous status.
9. Criminal Code and Civil Code, 2017
In order to amend and consolidate all the existing Criminal laws and Civil laws in one document, new criminal code and civil code has been introduced that is scheduled to be applicable from Bhadra 1 (August 17 2018). Although the law itself is appreciable, it has been observed that some parts of the Act such as provisions related to Freedom of Information and Expression, Right to Privacy, Right to communications, press and publication right, among others must be set within the international and constitutional standards. Provisions of the sections restricting Freedom of Expression being based on National Security, Privacy, Defamation, Blasphemy, Obscenity, and Hate speech in the civil and criminal codes need to be reviewed to enable environment for improved free expression
10. Online Media Directive 2017
Online Media Directive 2017 has been introduced under the Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act-2007 not any media act which makes it faulty and discouraging to internet-based media. Despite several efforts to withdraw the Online Media Directive 2017, no action from ministry and court side has been observed as Supreme Court is reluctant to fix a hearing date for the writ case filed challenging the provisions of the directive.
Province 4 Communication Policy 2075 (2018 AD)
Province 4 (Pokhara) has come up with a communications policy that aims at making government open, accountable, and transparent by strengthening FoE rights guaranteed by the constitutional standard. The policy has tried to incorporate the provision related to broadcasting service by establishing a province broadcasting board. In addition, the provisions related to Private FM broadcasting, public broadcasting, information bank, print media, online media, internet service films, advertisement are mentioned in the policy.