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FF has serious concern over media shutdown in the name of 'spreading false information'

Yet again, Press Council Nepal, a media regulatory body has written letter to Nepal Telecommunication Authority to shutdown publish and broadcast of web-based news portals allegedly for spreading false information on April 18.

Freedom Forum has serious concern over this authoritarian move of the council. It has ordered a shutdown of two news portals www.sholusan.com and www.barnamalanews.com stating that the contents published on the portals have breached privacy of the COVID-19 infected people and hence, is against constitution guaranteed right to privacy.

Earlier too, the council had asked the authority to shutdown seventeen additional online news portals on March 31 after the imposing ban on five online news portals earlier on March 22.

Press Council is eligible to ask for clarification to concerned media and help those improve their contents but such action of banning online news portals is unconstitutional as Nepal's constitution itself guarantees rights to free press and freedom of expression, argues FF's Executive Chief Taranath Dahal.

To this, FF observes, "The council can only remind and show concern over content, but has no authority to close media. Also, randomly blocking the sites is unacceptable".

At a time when the nation is in lockdown to contain COVID-19 pandemic, media are the only source to keep the citizens informed upon updates on COVID-19. If the media came to overlook certain provisions, the council can give suggestions and warnings, but taking a harsh measure of blocking the sites is against their legislative power. Hence, FF strongly urges the Council not to repeat such action of suppressing media; rather seek other legitimate ways and ensure citizen's right to access to information and press freedom.

The letter of the Nepal press council states, "The portals have revealed the identity of COVID-19 patients by publishing their pictures. The news sites to be remained closed until the next decision."

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