Govt should try to address concerns raised by journalists over Media Council Bill: Rawal

Bhim Rawal, Rishi Dhamala, Nepal Media Council Bill

KATHMANDU, May 20: Ruling Nepal Communist Party Bhim Rawal has said that the government should try to address the concern raised by the journalists over the controversial Nepal Media Council Bill, which proposes a heavy fine and jail sentence for publishing offensive contents.

“The government should try to address the issues raised by the journalists,” said Rawal, speaking at an interaction program organized by the Reporters’ Club Nepal on Monday.

The bill, under section 18 to Amend and Integrate Media Council Act, proposes a fine up to 1 million to media outlets, publishers, editors and journalists for publishing contents tarnishing the reputation of an individual.

Likewise, Bill on Mass Communications has proposed confiscation of media equipment and Rs 5 million to 10 million fine or 10 to 15 years in jail for publishing contents undermining national sovereignty, territorial integrity and nationality.

The journalist associations have argued that the proposed Bill violates the press freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of Nepal. They have also expressed concerns over how a media person or a journalist, who are not even paid a minimum wage, would be able to bear the penalty cost.

The government has faced criticisms from civil society, journalists, human right activists and main opposition party Nepali Congress, who have said the bill is aimed at controlling the media.

However, the government has defended the bill saying it has been brought to regulate, organize and discipline the media.

The government has already tabled the controversial media bill aiming to replace the Press Council Act 2048.

On a different note, Rawal also said that the individuals involved in the encroachment of public property should be punished.

“Taking back the encroached property is not enough. The land mafias should be punished,” said Rawal

Rawal also demanded the government probe into the Lalita Niwas land encroachment scam and find the individuals involved in illegally privatizing the public land.