Freedom Forum organized a virtual discussion on ‘Media Bills of Province-2 and Stakeholder Concerns’ on 14 July where representatives of FNJ Chapter of Province-2, media persons including others showed their concern, saying it was passed by the Province Assembly without hearing the demand and protest against the provisions in the bills.

The assembly passed two bills i.e.  1) ‘Management and Regulation of Province Communication’;  and 2) ‘Operation of Provincial FM, Radio, and Television’, contain regressive provisions on freedom of expression and inconsistent with the international as well as constitutional standard and best practices.

The major objective of the event was to seek common understanding regarding conflicting provisions of the bills and press the government and the Province Assembly to amend those regressive provision sooner.

Most of the participants of the event questioned the government for not organizing prior consultation with stakeholders on the bill and its provision and even not hearing the demand of province-based stakeholders including the FNJ chapter among others. Speakers stressed that the enshrined provision of the bill restricted the constitutionally enshrined freedom of expression, media freedom and right to information along with other sorts of fundamental rights. It is not in line with the constitutional list of the division of province power and the provision of article 17 and article 19 of the Constitution of Nepal.

The speakers showed their concern that the bill did not follow the basic guideline of drafting legal document, the sequence, structure and procedure. It created numerous structures and every structure had the multiple presence of minister and ministry officials holding most of the positions. All structure were formed for allocating particular positions to the ministry officials and it seemed another unit of ministry and line agencies for executing government order rather than playing independent and autonomous role.

The bill compelled everyone to register for all sorts of media outlets and compulsory press pass for journalists and had the provision regulating foreign reporter. It however did not talk about the media accountable to the people and people’s representatives.

The regressive bills are protested by the group of media persons for asking to withdraw the bill and accommodate the genuine demand of the protesters and journalists.

Major highlights of the flawed bill were raised by senior journalist Dharmendra Jha, Executive Chief at FF Taranath Dahal,  Deependra Chauhan President of FNJ Provinc-2 along with his team member and other media persons. Most of the participants asked FF for support in regards to rights of working journalists and law making process by providing policy inputs.

The virtual workshop was moderated by Sanjeeb Ghimire, Project Manager at Freedom Forum which was held as part of the “Civil Society Mutual Accountability Project (CS: MAP)” with the support of FHI360, and was attended by 21 participants. Out of 21 participants, there were 3 females in the event.