Freedom Forum has been alarmed over the issuance of the Online Mass Communications Operation Directive 2017 through its publication in the gazette.
Since the government made attempt to bring the directive relating to online media, FF has been constantly watchful whether it fully embraces the freedom of expression principle and international practice.
A year back, the Ministry of Information and Communication floated the proposal as 'Online Media Operation and Management Directive 2016' to which FF showed serious concern that it was faulty and discouraging to internet-based media, which is gaining ground with the gradual expansion of internet in Nepal. Receiving severe criticism from the FoE defenders as FF, the Ministry had withdrawn it, saying it would garner suggestions and amend accordingly.
But it has been brought with slightly different name 'Online Mass Communications Operation Directive-2017' this time without any fundamental difference from the earlier version.
Amazingly, the Directive has been brought under the Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act-2007 which means the government has taken online media as a medium for good governance and as a government entity to deliver service rather than as a vibrant medium to boost the practice of freedom of expression and bring citizen's voice in the main stream. The internet-based media are therefore not recognized equally as other media and the employees on it as journalists.
Ridiculous enough, the 'online journalism' is defined as a mere technical work in the internet.
Most importantly, anyone- even the TV and newspaper running online service - has been asked to register their online media and renew it. In the name of registration, there is high chance that government would take steps to suppress freedom of expression at any time.
"As the internet is a free, open and vast regime, the expression (journalism) through it must be respected equally as other form of media in line with universal principle of freedom of expression. Registration is unjust step to block this open medium," said Freedom Forum Executive Chief Taranath Dahal, demanding the immediate repeal of the Directive.
For More Information
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Website: www.nepalpressfreedom.org; www.freedomforum.org.np