Janata Janna Chahanchan, Media Council Bill

MEDIA COUNCIL BILL TO MAKE MEDIA ORGANIZED, DISCIPLINED: SURYA PATHAK

KATHMANDU, May 20: Main opposition party Nepali Congress leader Dr. Dila Sangroula has said that the government has brought the controversial Media Council Bill aiming to bring the power of media under their control.

“The government is afraid of media and their power. Lately, the media have exposed many corruption scams. They have written about government’s inability and Nirmala’s rape and murder case,” said Sangroula talking to Rishi Dhamala in a television talk show Janata Janna Chahanchan on Sunday.

“But the government has not been able to stand the media stories, reports and exposures at a time when the government has not been able to work as per their promises and people’s expectation. Thus the bill has been brought aiming to control the media, she added.

However, ruling Nepal Communist Party leader Surya Pathak, another guest of the program, claimed that the media bill has been brought to make the media more organized and disciplined but not to control them.

Pathak also claimed that the bill has been brought as per the spirit of the constitution. “The opposition NC is making unnecessary drama over the bill,” he added.

Sangroula argued that the opposition is protesting the bill to prevent the government from restricting press freedom.

According to her, the government introduced the media bill trampling the spirit of the constitution.

“The bill is a weapon to put an end to democracy, to control the media and to hook the press freedom,” she added.

She expressed dissatisfaction over the removal of ‘media as an autonomous and corporate body having perpetual succession’ mentioned in the preamble.

“The new bill also allows the government to sack chairperson and members of the council on the basis of the information and news he/she disseminates,” Sangroula vented ire.

“The government has already attacked rule of law, ideal state, free judiciary and human rights. Now the government has turned to the final and the most important organ…which is press freedom.”

Pathak argued that the phrase ‘controlling the media’ has not been mentioned anywhere in the bill.

“..for the development of healthy and dignified journalism.. for the free regulatory role…Nepal Media Council has been established…,” he said, reading the bill.

Sangroula interrupted Pathak saying,”…it is obvious the government is bringing the Media Council under the government shadow…”

“They have written ‘freedom’ but have also brought the provision that allows suspension and sack of members at any time, fine up to 1 million (NRS) and jail sentence to media person for publishing offensive contents.”

“Can a journalist afford the fine of such a huge amount? It’s a provision to send a media person to jail,” he argued.

“Can the government fire one who cannot work efficiently? … or sack one who is mentally challenged?” asked Pathak.

“The opposition has raised concerns over the provision of fine in the bill. The clause can be discussed,” he said. “Justified demands will be addressed.”

“About democracy… democracy does not mean one can speak whatever he or she likes. It’s about occupational ethics…” he added, “for example, if someone publishes about someone and if the report or the story proves to be factless… should not he be punished?

“The government should withdraw the bill,” pressed Sangroula.

“No, the government won’t. The bill will not be withdrawn on the basis of NC’s pressure,” insisted Pathak.

“It’s not only about NC. Journalists, civil society and human rights activists have hit the streets protesting the bill,” Sangroula argued.

“The bill is a symbol of government ‘s orientation toward totalitarianism,” she added.

Sangroula warned that the NC will not remain silent if the government tries to pass the bill forcefully.

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