Govt draws flak for bid to control news sites

- Post Report, Kathmandu
IFJ urges government to suspend directives and work out standard regulations to facilitate growth of online media in Nepal

Jun 18, 2016-The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed serious concerns over the government’s directives to regulate online media stating that some provisions in the ‘Online Media Operation Directive 2016’ undermine press freedom and the freedom of expression in Nepal.

The government approved the directives on Tuesday with provisions to disrupt the services of online news sites on arbitrary decisions of the Department of Information.

The conditions under which the DoI can order the blocking of a website include failure to register and renew the website; publication of materials deemed illegal or immoral or ‘without authoritative source or creating misconceptions among the public’.

“The directives are an attempt to impose censorship in media and the government’s effort to control media,” said Ajay Babu Shiwakoti, general secretary of Nepal Press Union, an IFJ affiliate. “The provision to disrupt services contradicts the Constitution of Nepal which states that no media shall be disrupted.”

Issuing a statement on Friday, the IFJ urged the government to suspend the directive. “The power to impose arbitrary blocking of the news website goes against the established principles of press freedom and online freedom,” read the statement. 

“The IFJ believes that any laws or regulations that empower blocking are autocratic in nature and should be immediately withdrawn. The IFJ urges the Nepal government to suspend the directives and work out standard regulations to facilitate growth of online media in Nepal with concrete discussions with stakeholders.”

The Freedom Forum said the provisions breach the freedom of expression on internet and the right to the operation of online media in a free atmosphere.

“The provision of blocking websites undermines freedom of expression. If online media are found breaching laws, they should not be blocked but the laws related to right to privacy, defamation, contempt of court and others can be applied,” said Taranath Dahal, chairperson of Freedom Forum.

Dahal added that the government should not silence media until they pose clear and immediate risk. “Some provisions in the directive are quite unclear,” he said.

At a time when online media are gradually becoming quick, convenient and the major source of information to the people living even in remote areas of the country or outside, the government’s “dictatorial move undoubtedly tries to silence such new media”, said the Forum.

Published: 18-06-2016 09:21

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