Over 250 Nepali journalists on Friday staged a sit-in protest outside the Parliament here demanding the withdrawal of the proposed Media Council Bill that aims to curtail press freedom by imposing strict penalty on media outlets.
Nepal has proposed the new media bill aimed at imposing a hefty fine of up to Rs 1 million on media outlets found guilty of damaging anyone’s reputation, raising alarm among journalists who say the government seeks to punish the press in the name of regulation.
The new Media Council bill aims to replace the existing Press Council Act and will have more authority to issue hefty fines and give the government more say in the hiring and firing of the council members.
The journalists protested under the banner of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) against the proposed bill and warned of escalating the agitation if the bill was not rolled-back.
Senior journalists, including FNJ President Govinda Acharya and other human right activists, said that there was a need to ensure press freedom in the country.
National and international media watchdogs, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), have expressed their serious concerns over some of the provisions in the Bill, saying that the provisions of the bill have wide-ranging implications on the media.
Another media law, Bill on Mass Communications, has proposed Rs 5 million to Rs 10 million in penalties or 10 to 15 years in jail or both for journalists publishing or broadcasting any content undermining national sovereignty, territorial integrity or nationality.
The bill has also proposed confiscation of media equipment if the media outlets and journalists are found publishing offensive contents.