Civil liberty group calls for more changes in proposed Media Council BillIn a statement, Freedom Forum has welcomed recent changes but points out a number of provisions that could jeopardise freedom of expression in the country.
Freedom Forum, a non-governmental organisation, working for the protection of human rights, press freedom, freedom of expression and right to information, has once again expressed its concerns over the Media Bill although a few contentious provisions curtailing press freedom were removed after criticism from the public and civil society organisations.
Following sharp criticism, the government had removed imprisonment and impose hefty fines on journalists and also cancelled the provision, requiring journalists to take a licence, before it was passed unanimously by the National Assembly on February 6.
In a press statement on Sunday, the forum has welcomed the positive move of removing of controversial provisions in the bill that could endanger press freedom, but it has called for further amendments in the bill.
The statement has pointed out that neither the preamble nor any provisions
of the bill in its current form has endorsed the Media Council as an independent, capable and autonomous body.
“The preamble fails to address the issue of promoting the development of professional journalism,” reads the release. “Preamble and following provisions of the must include these issues.”
Drawing the attention of Parliament, political parties, civil societies, media fraternity as well as all the parties concerned, the forum has said that bill, which is the major law for promoting self-regulation itself is silent on the matter of self-regulation and self-evaluation in mass media as envisaged in the National Mass Communication Policy 2073.
The organisation has reiterated that the formation of the Media Council, maintaining government control, is still an objectionable provision in the bill from the point of freedom of press and freedom of expression.
“The qualification of the Media Council chairman should be equivalent to the Supreme Court judge with judicial spirit,” the press release says. “The amendment done by the National Assembly doesn’t guarantee this provision. It has proposed the formation of the council which will only support the domination of representatives nominated by the government. Such formation proposal is objectionable and should be amended.”
It has also demanded that the number of appointments that are to be fulfilled through election must be at least 50 percent of the total positions for making the council inclusive, independent and autonomous.
Likewise, the number of expert nominations should be nominal and there should not be the provision of nominating experts from the media sector alone. For this, the council must have the representation of media consumers as well, according to the press statement.
It has also raised concern about the provision that the government would make recommendations to the council which must be implemented with priority, calling it another problematic provision against the independent and autonomous council as well as press freedom and freedom of expression.