National Assembly members agreed to reform regressive provisions on media council bill after taking suggestions from stakeholders and reiterating the preparation and process of reform as per the demand of the concerned. The commitment of policy makers came during the multi stakeholder discussion on “Media Council Bill” organized on 25th August 2019 by Freedom Forum in Kathmandu. Various National Assembly members, Editors, former representatives of Press Council, lawyers and other concerned media stakeholders participated in the policy dialogue event on the proposed bill, which has been already registered in parliament (NA) now.
Highlighting the objective and major provisions in the bill, Freedom Forum’s Project Manager Sanjeeb Ghimire presented a brief outlines of the bill, their positive and negative aspect and impact along with the suggestions for further amendment.
Meanwhile, various speakers expressed their concerns over the provision in bill.One of the former members of Press Council, Harihar Birahi felt that the proposed Media Council Bill should come with new provisions that can address the present day challenges of media. He also put his concern about law making trend without engaging stakeholders while drafting.
Showing concern from media fraternity, Chief-editor of Himalaya TV, Binod Dhungel questioned the proposed structure and its inclusiveness and the balancing conflict of interest of council members. Prakash Rimal, editor from The Himalayan Times, found that instead of imagining responsible media, the bill seems as a controlling medium. Another editor from Nagarik Daily, Gunaraj Luitel said freedom of speech could not be halted only because of writing. Laws are always welcome to make journalism responsible but such harsh and regressive laws always torture journalist. Subash Ghimire, editor of Republica expressed that in-house gate keeping is a kind of internal regulation which is being practiced. He said to reconsider the lead position in the council as who will best fit for.
Khimlal Lal Bhattarai, member of National Assembly stated that it would be easy for us to know about the issue in a better way. Press freedom is necessary, the provisions, which are harmful in the bill, will be revised, and we committed for that.
Another member of National Assembly, Pramila Kumari said that positive suggestion has been gathered about the amendment. She also expressed her concern on participatory and inclusive body in media council.
Brikhesh Chandra Lal, member of National Assembly emphasized on Freedom of Press. In regards to the amendment, the media leaders need to know more about the negative impact of wrong news.However, it does notmean that press should be controlled in the name of fulfilling laws.
Dinanath Sharma, member of National Assembly said that changes in the bill is natural and no government can control it. The bill will be certainly be reformed and movefurther after taking the stakeholder’s suggestions.
Concluding the discussion, chief executive Taranath Dahal and chairperson of Freedom Forum Haribinod Adhikari asked the NA members to amend conflicting provisions for guarantee press freedom and freedom of expression.
The program held as part of the program “Civil Society Mutual Accountability Project (CS: MAP)”, supported by FHI360; was attended by 35 participants. Out of 35 participants, there were 8 members of National Assembly and 10 female participants in the program.