Freedom Forum condemns government’s decision to shutdown seventeen additional online news portals on March 31 after the imposing ban on five online news portals earlier on March 22..

According to Online Journalists Association, Press Council Nepal, a media regulatory body of the government, had written to National Telecommunication Authority to restrict access to those online portals from the country for spreading hoax on Covid-19.

The Council wrote to the authority alleging media for spreading mis-information about Covid-19 pandemic and creating panic among the public.

Meanwhile, the council had asked clarification to 37 media including News 24 television and Rajdhani Daily for broadcasting and publication wrong information about the Covid-19. FF is closely monitoring the case.

Council must not act arbitrarily; it has not specified any methodology or type of content as misinformation. Yes, it is rightful body to monitor the content while in the name of monitoring content, blocking media is deplorable. Also, in the name of misinformation, journalists must not be panicked and media controlled.

Press Council is eligible to ask for clarification to concerned media and help those improve their contents but such action of banning online news portals is unconstitutional as Nepal’s constitution itself guarantees rights to free press and freedom of expression, argues FF’s Executive Chief Taranath Dahal.

To this, FF observes, “Government’s action to stop media from publishing fake news is acceptable but such blanket approach adopted to block the sites will suppress the freedom of expression”.

Hence, FF urges concerned authority to respect the rights to press freedom and freedom of expression. At this time of crisis, formation of a certain mechanism with participation of wider stakeholders can be mulled to ascertain fake news.

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