Freedom Forum is concerned over government’s decision to shutdown online news portals on March 22.
FF's representative from Bagmati Province reported that Press Council Nepal, a media regulatory and record keeping authority of the government, has written to government to restrict access to five online portals from the country for spreading hoax on Covid-19.
A meeting of the council on Sunday decided to write to the Nepal Telecommunication Authority to restrict access to the different five online portals from Nepal for spreading mis-information about Covid-19 and creating panic among the public. Same meeting of the council also decided to write NTA for restricting two more online portals for publishing hoax, said an official at the council Ram Saran Bohara.
"All those online portals are not registered at the Information Department and don't have any address information on the site for contact," he added. A previous meeting of the council had decided to write NTA to restrict online portals which are involved in spreading hoax and not registering in the country.
The council has said that it would write to the NTA to lift restriction on such online portals if they come to register at the concerned government authority. This is not the first time that council has decided to write government for banning online portals for violating media code of ethics.
Meanwhile, the council has asked clarification to 22 media including News 24 television and Rajdhani Daily for broadcasting and publication wrong information about the Covid-19.
Council must not act arbitrarily; verification and cross verification are must before alleging media of spreading misinformation. In the name of misinformation, journalists must not be panicked and media controlled.
To this, FF observes,"Government's action to stop media from publishing fake news is acceptable but such control over media may create censorship and endanger press freedom."
Hence, FF urges concerned authority to respect the rights to press freedom and freedom of expression. At crisis time, formation of a certain mechanism with participation of wider stakeholders can be mulled to ascertain fake news.
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