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Nepalese journalists firm on demanding scrapping of controversial media bill

File photo of KP Sharma Oli. Photograph:( Reuters )

PTI Kathmandu, Nepal Jun 12, 2019, 09.36 PM (IST)

Nepali journalists will intensify their agitation against a controversial bill targeting the media and demand its immediate withdrawal, a media organisation has announced.

According to the fresh protest programme unveiled on Tuesday by the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), the media professionals will take part in whistle and lantern marches, organise a cartoon exhibition and collect signatures from prominent personalities from all walks of life against the Media Council Bill.

The bill which aims at imposing a hefty fine of up to Rs 1 million on media outlets found guilty of damaging anyone's reputation has raised an alarm among journalists who say the government seeks to punish the press in the name of the regulation.

"It is clear that the Media Council Bill is aimed at controlling the media instead of regulating it. FNJ has decided to continue its stringent protest until the bill is withdrawn from Parliament," FNJ General Secretary Ramesh Bista said.

He said that signatures of people from across the country will be collected against the bill and will be submitted to Prime Minister KP Oli through the district administration offices.

A central committee meeting of the FNJ has finalised the third phase of the protest programme.

The signature campaign is slated for June 18, while the collected signatures will be handed over to the district administration officers on June 21.

A cartoon exhibition will be organised on June 25 to protest the bill, said the FNJ, an umbrella organisation of the Nepali journalists. 

Journalists will be asked to send text messages to the provincial and federal parliamentarians on June 30 to draw their attention, it said in its protest programme.

A press freedom meeting is slated for July 5, lantern march for July 9 and whistle march for July 15, it added.

Journalists and other stakeholders have been protesting against the bill which was registered at the National Assembly last month.

Besides slapping a hefty fine on journalists found violating 'media code of ethics', another provision in the bill talks about setting up of a state-controlled media watchdog by scrapping the existing one.

The drafting of the bill started last year and had generated controversy when the government quietly moved the bill to Parliament last month, bypassing a critical consultation phase with stakeholders and the public.

Story highlights

The bill which aims at imposing a hefty fine of up to Rs 1 million on media outlets found guilty of damaging anyone's reputation has raised an alarm among journalists who say the government seeks to punish the press in the name of the regulation.