House endorses revised ‘press-friendly’ Privacy Bill

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Sep 16, 2018-

The House of Representatives on Saturday endorsed the bill on Protection of Individual’s Right to Privacy, revising the provisions that were feared to restrict the free press. The bill also ensures that the details of public figures will no longer be kept secret.

The Home Ministry had, on August 21, registered the draft bill at the Parliament Secretariat, outlining provisions that could be used to muzzle the media.

Along with the provisions of the Criminal Code that came into force on August 17, the privacy bill had drawn flak from legal analysts and journalists, especially on provisions that ban gathering of information on individuals, taking photographs, and recording a conversation without prior permission.

Amid strong criticism from the media, the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Parliament was forced to amend these provisions. The report to revise the draft bill prepared by the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee was endorsed by the House of Representatives on Saturday.

The restrictions on revealing property details, educational certificates, passport, driving licence and other details that identify the person have now been lifted with the revision. That means the details of public figures will not be deemed confidential and media will be able to reveal them as part of their reporting. Earlier, the draft bill had a provision barring journalists from revealing such information.

The amended bill won’t restrict anyone from maintaining transparency for public welfare and pursuing investigative journalism. Nor will the new privacy bill put new restrictions on revealing information. The curbs enforced by the existing laws on Press and Publication, and National Broadcasting will, however, remain.

Clause 34 of the revised bill states that any provision in the bill won’t affect the publication and broadcasting of the information, data, news and pictures obtained in course of investigative journalism unless that interferes with fundamental values of privacy of an individual.

Clause 16 of the draft bill had the provision restricting anyone from photographing without permission. The revised bill states that the rule will not apply to mass media.

Revision in the draft bill has made it easier for journalists to publish and broadcast the statements and audio-visual content of any public figure.

Besides, the new bill will not keep publications from revealing the details of retired public officials if it is deemed necessary for public welfare, integrity, moral issues, and illegal acts.

Lawmaker Mina Pandey, who chaired the panel meeting, said the committee had prepared the report in a way not to affect press freedom. The bill will be tabled at the National Assembly next. Once the Upper House endorses it, the bill will be presented to the President’s Office for authentication with effect from September 19.

Published: 16-09-2018 07:26

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