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National Human Rights Commission objects to Media Council Bill

  • If endorsed in present form, it will be against the basic principles of human rights and freedom of expression, watchdog says
- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

May 16, 2019-

The National Human Rights Commission has taken serious exception to an amendment Bill to revise the Press Council Act, saying the proposed law is against democratic norms and the freedom of expression that is ensured by the Constitution of Nepal.

 The constitutional human rights watchdog has said press freedom, human rights and the rule of law are integral parts of democracy and an attack on any of these pillars adversely affects the democratic principle the country has established after a long struggle.

Issuing a press statement, after the consultation with the representatives of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, the commission said the constitution has ensured full freedom to the press while Universal Declarations of the Human Rights also guarantees the freedom of expression and opinion to every individual.

“The provisions in the bill to allow the Media Council to fix the fine and penalty like judicial and quasi-judicial entities is against the international practice,” reads the statement. “Monitoring could be necessary but an attempt to control in the name of monitoring cannot be in a line with norms of human rights.”

 The Bill, which aims to replace the existing Press Council Act and was registered in Parliament on May 9, will have more authority to issue hefty fines and give the government more say in the hiring and firing of council members. The proposed bill aims to give sweeping powers to the self-regulatory body overseeing the press, and information rights activists and journalists have been saying that the new council could also increase direct attacks on the press.

 The federation has taken to the streets demanding for the revision while the journalists working with different mainstream media too have raised their voice against the Bill. Earlier, the Press Council could ask for clarification, apology, and blacklist certain press organisations, but now the Bill aims to give the council authority to issue monetary punishment ranging from Rs 25,000 to one million rupees.

The provisions in the proposed Bill will also give the council greater power to write to the concerned authority to take action against media organisations if they violate press ethics as defined by the government.

 The commission has concluded that the Bill, if endorsed in the present form, will be against the basic principles of human rights and freedom of expression. “Therefore, it should be revised as per the spirit of human rights and democracy after the consultation with the stakeholders,” reads the statement.

 

Published: 16-05-2019 07:24

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