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.
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.
(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.
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.
In this another part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present two old interviews with Rajpal J Singh, who created a history in Nepal’s online media by founding The Nepal Digest.
The Nepal Digest, began in April, 1992, is Nepal’s first e-magazine distributed on email. It was established by Rajpal J Singh, when he was 26 and had finished masters degree at the Northern Illinois University. The Nepal Digest is predecessor of Nepal’s online media and hence historically important to understand history of Nepal’s online media.
Rajpal J. Singh currently lives in New York.
I’m republishing two historical items related to Singh. The first is an interview as published on December 10, 1998 on The Nepal Digest itself; second interview published in The Kathmandu Post in January, 1998. Those interviews gives an idea of his life, beginning of The Nepal Digest, its status then and other related matters.
In this part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present the news that was published in the front page of the The Kathmandu Post to announce the newspaper being available online. The Kathmandu Post was put online from September 1, 1995 but the announcement was only made on September 8’s edition of the newspaper through a front page news.
Also, the small notification on The Nepal Digest by Rajendra Shrestha to announce the beta release of the Kathmandu Post on September 4, 1995 and an advertisement published in The Kathmandu Post on September 9 and 11 announcing the feat of being ‘the first Asian daily to be available free of cost on Internet.