The government brought the policy and programmes for the coming fiscal year 2016/017 on May 8. President Bidya Devi Bhandari presented the policy document before the Legislature-Parliament.
Here are some of the points relating to media/press, information, and transparency:
106. To make the mass media dignified and professional, the mass media policy will be implemented. To make the news dissemination credible and respected, journalists' qualification and standard would be set and the code of conduct implemented. The monitoring of the minimum wage of the working journalists would be continued.
107. The media will be classified and categorized with certain criteria and standard. A work plan on structural and managerial reform of the public associations/organizations working actively media will be implemented. The oldest publication of the country, Gorkhapatra daily, will be published also from Biratnagar in the east and from Kohalpur, Banke from the west.
108. Structural and managerial changes would be equipped with modern technology brought to make the postal service professional. Express postal service will be managed in the metropolitan city and sub-metropolitan cities. The activities being carried out from the additional postal offices will be continued with the cooperation from the local bodies.
109. Laws on security printing will be amended and process will be taken for establishment of security print.
110. Works will be initiated to expand telecommunication technology, radio and television by developing own satellite. Rural telecommunication fund will be mobilized to spread optical fibre in the Mid-Hill Highway and postal highway. Internet service will be introduced in the community schools and primary health centres through the microwave transmission.
111. The business centres along the Pushpalal Mid-Hill Highway and the newly announced municipalities will have IT services in line with the concept of the modern city. Internet service will be provided freely in the important public places by making the internet service providers and concerned associations bear the cost.
116. To make the public procurement process more open, transparent, objective and credible, a single portal based online procurement system will be made effective. Similarly, public procurement information management system will be established to ensure all stakeholders access to the information.
127. Quality of auditing will be enhanced to ensure financial accountability of the public auditing. An overall and agency-based work procedure of the internal control system will be formulated to make the public financial management effective.
Freedom Forum has strong reservation on point nos 106 and 107 of the government policy and programme that have mentioned that qualification of journalists would be determined, and media caterogrized. It grossly violates the citizen's freedom of expression. FoE is a basic right and it is a universal right. Everyone is free to exercise freedom of expression. Licensing for journalists in the name of qualification is against this value.
The curtailment of FoE is against the principle of representative democracy as well.
Secondly, classification of media as stated in point no 107 is against against media pluralism. It is a time Nepal needs to foster media pluralism where diverse views are recognized.
To this, Chairperson of the Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal observes, "To ensure quality in news dissemination, enhancement of journalists' competence, through training may be the effective option, but setting criteria to qualify journalists is fully against the international standard of freedom of expression. If it is implemented, it surely curtails citizens' freedom of expression. Media pluralism must not be hindered by media classification."
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