Freedom Forum organized a dialogue on “Media Law and Policy in Nepal: Present Status, Challenges and Way Forward” on November 13. It was held virtually.

Reflecting on the recent trends of the government formulating regressive laws that suppress citizen’s right to free expression and information, Sanjeeb Ghimire, called upon the participants to suggest the way forward to overcome the challenges posed by the policies governing media.

Executive Chief at FF Taranath Dahal also shed light on the suppressive provisions in different laws and policies relating to media in Nepal. He described how the laws governing Privacy, Civil Code, Advertisement, etc directly and indirectly curtailed free press and freedom of expression. He stressed that majority of the provisions led the government approach towards control and self-regulation in the name of law. Information Technology bill was also to control the online and offline freedom of expression.

He also shared information on different media policies formulated by the province governments which he said were problematic and against constitutional provisions.

On the occasion, senior journalist Dhrubahari Adhikari stressed the terms ‘self-regulation’ and ‘censorship’ which are debatable and reason of concern mainly while drafting and reviewing different media-related policies. He also called upon the media stakeholders to raise their voice.

Editor at Hari Bahadur Thapa suggested the need to educate people’s representatives to draft the citizen-centered laws ensuring wider participation of concerned stakeholders for better policy-making process and its implementation.

Joint Secretary at Ministry of Communications and Information technology Mahendra Saankhi agreed on the need to amend the tabled media-related bills and expressed his commitment to secure press freedom and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution.

“We at the ministry have been prodding to adopt participatory approach for policy formulation. However, continuous lobby and advocacy from the civil society sector is equally important”, he marked.

Legal and Policy Advisor at FHI360 Tanka Aryal claimed that the main problem underlying such policies is the government’s ignorance on international obligations relating to democratic values.

Senior journalist and General Secretary at FF Dharmendra Jha stressed the need for accountable and citizen-friendly policies based on the practices of constitutional standards and good governance.

Advocate Santosh Sigdel argued that as the hierarchy of law has not been followed, most of the media related policies have been brought on false ground. Every citizen has the right to invalidate the laws which are against constitution. He suggested the civil society and media to analyze the theoretical and practical effects of such laws on media.

Concluding the event, FF Chairperson Hari Binod Adhikari said, “All we need to do is to make aware the government and related lawmakers in order to make the media policies FoE friendly in future. Civic awareness and continuous advocacy is necessary to address the pressing issues in the policies.