New Information and Communications Order?
This may well be Nepal’s version of the McBride Commission. However, the Adhikari Commission report is far from complete.
The commission report, submitted on September 15, 2006, to PM Girija Prasad Koirala, recommends structural reforms in the media sector—complete press freedom, people’s right to information, privatization of government media, up to 49 percent foreign direct investment in media sector, equitable distribution of government ads, rights of working journalists, formation of some high-level media supervisory entities and reforms of existing institutions, among others. But the commission also seems vague or silent on critical topics such as concentration and online journalism. The following is the summary of the 40-page report:
The High Level Media Recommendation Commission (2006) formed by Nepal Government [on July 12, 2006 under the chairmanship of MP and senior advocate Radheshyam Adhikari] was assigned to identify problems that the media has been facing on the development of institutional journalism and to provide suggestion for its solution and the Commission, within prescribed time, has presented the following recommendations on following sectors after incorporating various suggestions and discussions from press and media sector for the protection of independence of media, effective implementation of right to information and institutional development of press.
The commission while presenting the suggestions, has focused on structural reform of media institutions, change in legal and constitutional provision, advertisement policy, supervision and classification, foreign investment in media and regional reform of media.
In relation to structural reform, commission has suggested the formation of Information and Communication Commission to establish the people's right to information, National Broadcasting Authority for the management of electronic media, Public Service Broadcasting Body for the management of government owned electronic media and press council should be given added responsibility to issue code of conduct for electronic and digital journalism as well.
In relation to constitutional and legal reform, commission has suggested to ensure that media sector is protected as nation's fourth estate and for this purpose preamble of the constitution should acknowledge the role of mass media for the establishment of democratic political system, to ensure that the state can not arbitrarily interfere freedom of expression and freedom of all types of media, to guarantee clearly the people's right to information.
Special protection should be made for the lawful representation of women, marginalized, indigenous, dalits, and madhesis in mass media.
Apart from special acts that are required for structural reform of media, the commission has recommended for the promulgation of Press and Broadcasting Umbrella Act. In accordance to which the press law should be made incorporating norms of professional journalism and concerns of working journalists and publication/broadcasting act should be made incorporating the issues of operation and responsibility of press/publication organization.
Government media should be completely freed from government control. About Gorkhapatra Corporation, its brand and property should be separated and without affecting its brand, it should be auctioned to a private sector. While doing this, the journalists and employees of the corporation should be managed well. Nepal Television and Radio Nepal should be changed into public broadcast organization.
About advertisement policy, it should be categorized into "public welfare", "public" and "commercial" on the basis of its nature, intention and its impact. It is suggested that the state should equally distribute advertisements related to public welfare and public information and all such advertisements should not be centralized and should be distributed through District Development Committee.
Regarding, supervision and categorization of media, the job of supervision and categorization should not be from Press Council but by an independent supervision committee in a subjective and transparent manner and the committee should involve advertisers, publisher and the media consumer.
At a time when many countries of the world are adopting the policy of opening the foreign investment, it is considered that rather than letting the foreign investment enter secretly, it is better to let it enter in a transparent way in Nepal. Commission has suggested that, foreign investment should be allowed in all national level media but the investment should not be more than 49 percent, Management head must be a Nepali citizen and all the employees working in the editorial department should also be Nepali citizens.
About the regional reforms that is to be considered, since the practice of registering print media at Home Administration is felt to be impractical, the work of registration of newspapers should be given to District Development Committee and to avoid the duplicity of name, its report should be sent to Information Department or it should be updated in the website of the Department and should be registered within three days. Regarding working journalists, apart from other facilities, the organization that is five year old should compulsorily make one third of its staff permanent and the contractual staff should get the gratuity, leave and medical expenses equal to the permanent staff.
While giving permission of broadcast to radio, it should be categorized on the basis of the nature of its service and region and after viewing its aim i.e. public service or commercial or community service and national, regional or local and the state should give special concession and facility to public service broadcast and community radio.
The licensing process should be made easy and transparent and the state should be allowed to keep 2 FM for public broadcasting and 3 FM for commercial broadcasting as a national broadcasting. Local elected body and university should be allowed to run FM stations up to 30 watt.
Television media, on the basis of profit and service, should be classified as Public Service Broadcasting and Commercial broadcasting and state should provide special facilities and privileges to the public service broadcasting. ..
Cable television should be allowed to produce program and broadcast them. Cable television should be allowed to run services like email, phone, video and online.
For the encouragement of film industry, all existing provisions that require pre permission to make movie should be annulled. Movie grading system should be established removing pre visual censorship system. State should provide grant, privileges and facilities to encourage movie in various local language of Nepal. Private sector should be allowed to invest at information superhighway (fiber optic and microwave transmission link) and service providing body and infrastructure governing body should be different.
In information technology, digital medium should be given the recognition of mass media to guarantee its independence. There should be open competition among any type of service provider company.
The members of the Commission were Bishnu Nisthuri, President, Federation of Nepalese's Journalists (FNJ); Murari Kumar Sharma, President, Nepal Press Union; Bal Krishna Chapagain, President, Press Chautari Nepal; Raghu Mainali, Convenor, Save the Independent Radio Movement; Prateek Pradhan, editor of The Kathmandu Post; Rajendra Dahal, President of Press Council; Babita Basnet, President, Sancharika Samuha and journalists Ram Rijhan Yadhav, Dhruba Hari Adhikary, Binaya Kasaju and Shiva Lal Malla. The Director General of the Department of Information, Mukunda Prasad Acharya was the Member Secretary of the Commission.
The complete 40-page report is available here (in Nepali language).
Posted by Editor on September 17, 2006 9:01 PM