Online Media Directives threatens press freedom & Freedom of Expression online

The Online Media Operation Directives 2016 is a serious threat to press freedom and freedom of expression online in Nepal as the newly approved directives goes against the core principles of democracy and free press.

The Government of Nepal, on June 14, approved the ‘Online Media Operation Directives – 2016 (Nepali PDF link)’ aimed to ‘make online journalism responsible, respected and bring it within the jurisdiction of Press Council of Nepal’. However, the document gives an overall impression that the motive behind the Directives is not to facilitate the development of the online media but rather the authoritarian style control over the online media, and criminalization of freedom of expression online.

Legal Censorship

Clause 21 of the Directives gives the state right to disrupt the website if a) online media is found operated without registration or annual renewal, b) materials deemed unpublishable is published or broadcast, and c) any act deemed against the Directives or applicable laws. Clause 6 also states that if the online media failed to renew annually, the service of the online media shall be obstructed according to the existing laws.

This empowers the state’s agency arbitrary power of censorship. The Department of Information is stated as the agency to the register and renew the online media ‘if the documents presented are found satisfactory after necessary verification’. The blocking of website that are deemed to be censored will then be blocked without judicial process on the decision of the Department.

The censorship provision is against the constitutional rights of the citizens; and a violation of the Constitution.

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Proposing Code of Ethics for Online Media and Journalists

(This write-up is published in March 2016 issue of Samhita – a quarterly publication of Press Council Nepal – under title ”Media, codes and ethics’.)

It’s an undeniable fact that the quality of the contents and performance of the online media in Nepal has remained questionable despite tremendous growth in recent few years. As the establishment of online media doesn’t require a big investment as in other types of media, everyone seems to be jumping in – with a lot of journalists with experience in print and broadcasting media becoming online journalists. There is no official record of the number of online media in Nepal, but its safe to assume that at least a few dozens are operating.

It’s also undeniable fact that the future of news media in online. Online media will become the integral part of media landscape very soon and will probably overtake print and broadcasting media as the most-consumed media in a couple of decades in Nepal. In this scenario, the media stakeholders in Nepal – such as the Press Council of Nepal (PCN) and the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) – should look forward to facilitate the growth of the online media in a responsible ways to prevent chaos. There has been a lot of discussion and declarations globally to understand the online media and democratic regulations for it.

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A Teacher of His Own League

I’m retired but not tired.
Prof. P. Kharel

Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication P. Kharel retired from the Tribhuvan University recently. A teacher of his own league, I was among those fortunates to get opportunities to learn from him. During our college days, we had to muster enough courage to face him as he was considered a strict teacher. When I was doing my master’s in journalism and mass communication, I asked him to supervise my thesis on sports journalism for two reason: first, because he had been a sports reporter himself during his career, and secondly, I was writing in English.

In this blog post, I will write some of my interesting experiences with him.  These experience with him probably tells us how his personality is.

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Reporting through Nepal’s crisis

Since the Nepal’s devastating earthquake on April 25, the country’s journalists have persevered to continue telling the story for Nepal and its people.

“With my home and land now destroyed by the earthquake, my family had turned into squatters. Despite the loss, I did not shirk my responsibilities. For a week after the first quake, I stayed in Kathmandu reporting as usual while trying to forget the problems at home. I was busy following up on how much damage the earthquake had inflicted on our heritage sites, about the crowd of people trying to leave the capital, the army officials who were saving people from destroyed houses and the work done by the Nepal Police, APF and citizens.”

The Kathmandu Post journalist Makar Shrestha wrote this personal account of damage by the April 25 7.6 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks and its impact on those around him. Shrestha hails from a village in the Dolakha district east of Kathmandu that was hard hit by the earthquake. Dolakha was the epicenter of many aftershocks, including the 6.8 magnitude earthquake on May 12.

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Electronic Transaction Act #Clause47 & Journalism

On Monday, 30 September, news came through that yet another journalist has been arrested under Clause 47 of Electronic Transaction Act 2008. Dinesh Acharya, editor-in-chief of Share Bazaar Weekly, was arrested as a case against him was filed by Nirvana Chaudhary, a heir of Chaudhary Group of industries and son of Nepal’s only Forbes billionaire.

At the Kathmandu District Court, where he was to be brought that day, I saw police bringing in people handcuffed together. A thought of a journalist being handcuffed alongside those accused on cases of drugs and violence horrified me for a few seconds. But Acharya was not among those dozen who were brought in an open truck. A police van later brought him – handcuffed but alone and in a better way.

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