Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the House of Representatives (HoR) Krishna Bhakta Pokharel has assured that the media bill will be amended.
Talking with journalists at the Singh Durbar on Friday, he assured that parliamentary committees will hold discussions with the stakeholders concerned at the time of passing bills. “It is the parliament’s duty to formulate laws but we have started to formulate laws in recent times by taking the stakeholders concerned along with us,” he stated. “We have kept the stakeholders in the loop while formulating laws about bonus to foreign employment. Laws should not be formulated by keeping those covered by the laws outside. Friends in the media have fought for democracy and the Constitution. We will hold discussion even while passing the media bill,” he elaborated.
The bill–that proposes a fine of Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 million on journalist for violating code of conduct, has been widely condemned with the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) already starting protests demanding its withdrawal while President of the main opposition party Nepali Congress (NC) Sher Bahadur Deuba has called it a coup on journalists and press freedom.
Pointing that the Constitution mentions complete press freedom, he added that the law will guarantee that. “Deputy parliamentary party leader of the ruling CPN Subas Chandra Nembang has also already said the bill will be enriched,” Pokharel pointed. “Whip is not generally issued at the time of formulating laws. We will pass the law using our conscience, international norms and values, provision of the Constitution and precedents of the Supreme Court.”
He said the lawmakers will pay attention to the provision about formation of the Media Council and fine. “Questions have been raised as to whether the fine of Rs 1 million should be kept or not. A fine is a fine even if it is only Rs 1 to Rs 100,” he opined.
He argued that the government’s aim of regulating the media sector is right. “But we should not go in a way that media houses cannot get up in the name of regulation. The government does not think that those who cannot pay a fine of Rs 1 million should stay in prison merely for writing news.”
He pointed that the government makes appointment in the council even in India but retired justices are appointed there. “We have such provision even in our existing law. We have exercised that and written so. We will discuss the issue seriously,” he revealed.
He added that the bill about National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will also be amended. He said the a few words will have to be removed from the bill, and the NHRC should be given financial autonomy.
He also assured that the provision allowing the attorney general to send back the NHRC’s recommendation will be removed. “It would be appropriate to go by keeping NHRC will recommend as per the language of the Constitution. It should also be in line with international laws,” he stated.
He added that the provision allowing the attorney general to write to the NHRC for additional investigation will also not be kept.