Press Council Nepal: From a Watchdog to the Maoist Lapdog

Awadesh Kumar Yadav
Awadesh Kumar Yadav

By Siromani Dhungana
UWB

The present Press Council Act in Nepal need to be revisited, restructured and reformed to ensure the independence of the council and to establish it as a true ‘watchdog mechanism’.

After the appointment of new chairman at Press Council Nepal (PCN), the need of reforming the existing legal provision has further garnered its relevancy.

In what appears to be a controversial move of the Government of Nepal, it appointed former Supreme Court Justice Awadhesh Kumar Yadav as the Chairman of Press Council Nepal on January 25, 2013.

Reportedly, Yadav as the apex court Justice had issued an order to prevent the prosecution of a war-era criminal case against then Maoist lawmaker Keshab Rai.

Yadav had stayed the prosecution against Rai in a case related to the murder of Padam Bahadur Tamang in Okhaldhunga, citing that the to-be-formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission would deal with all the conflict-time cases.

Yadav’s order then had run into a serious controversy, as it had set a soft precedent that ‘cases that occurred during the insurgency cannot be addressed through regular justice system’, media reports suggest.

Awadesh Kumar Yadav’s appointment has not only threatened the rule of law but also has breached the judicial precedent. The government has allegedly undermined the Supreme Court ruling by appointing Yadav in Press Council Nepal. In a case of Subodh Man Napit vs Government of Nepal in 2010, SC had issued a directive, saying ‘appointment of the apex court justice in any government post will be against the principle of independence of judiciary’.

Professional organizations have started volleying a barrage of criticism to the government following Yadav’s appointment at the Press Council Nepal. The question, however, is not appointment but the system.

In Nepal, Press Council is a statutory body set up by the government to promote the standards of a free press in a democratic society and to advise the government on matters relating to the development of healthy and credible journalism in the country.

However, consecutive governments have been failing to ensure the credibility of Press Council by appointing their nearer and dearer in executive role. The function of Council itself has been limited to protect the government rather than helping media to maintain their independence and implementing code of conduct independently.

Interestingly, the flocks who have been appointed or who were in executive role following the same process and continued the same system, which is at present, criticize the government when the ruling party is against them.

In my opinion, the decision of the government to appoint Yadav as the chief of Press Council Nepal has proved that the country is still miles away to pursue reform in the existing system of the Council. The reform should be started from the system.

Article 6 of Press Council Act 1992 of Nepal delegates power to the Government of Nepal to appoint chairman and members of Press Council Nepal.

Moreover, the council works as a quasi-judicial body since it can recommend to the government for the suspension, in whole or in part, of any privilege or facility receivable by him with respect to a journalist who is in defiance of the professional code of conduct repeatedly.

The most controversial function of Press Council Nepal is classification of newspapers on the basis, inter alia, of the number of the publications made under article 11 of Press Council Act 1992. The government provides facilities to the newspapers based on the classification provided by the council. Many newspaper owners suppose that the classification of newspaper is not neutral. The newspaper classification by the council often attracts criticism for its alleged bias to political parties affiliated newspapers.

The common understanding is that the PCN classify newspapers having affiliation to ruling party with high score and recommends the government to provide more facilities.

Siromani Dhungana
Siromani Dhungana: writer

The press is deemed to be a watchdog of the society and the Press Council, in principle, is expected to be the watchdog of the press.  It is a forum where people can send the complaints against irresponsible functioning of media. However, direct political interference at the watchdog mechanism will do nothing more than converting it as ‘lapdog’.

The Press Council Nepal has two challenges before it: securing independence of the press and making the press accountable. Political will is a must to make PCN to face these challenges. Similarly, media professionals should breakaway from greed and put pressure to government to reform the system. Otherwise, Press Council Nepal will be nothing more than a facility distribution agency.

4 thoughts on “Press Council Nepal: From a Watchdog to the Maoist Lapdog”

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  2. Ramkrishna Karmacharya is working on professional rights, welfare and security. He has been the executive member of International Organization of Journalists and was the Secretary of Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Committe, Nepal. Karmacharya had demanded 50% discount in air fare and life insurance for the journalism profession, being highly risky and sensitive. He says that he will go on working for the development of society till his death. Karmacharya has Higher Diploma in Journalism from Moscow and has traveled to different countries in his capacity of journalist.

    Press and information officer Ms. Ineke Stoneham, who is representing the united states at their kathmandu embassy, paid a visit to the national press club, Nepal on january 5th, 2016. the current president of the national press, Mr. ram krishna karmacharya, welcomed Ms. Stoneham at press club offices in pulchowk 20, Lalitpur, Member of International Association of Press Clubs. she was introduced to all of the executive members of press club; Ms. Stoneham was curious about the current work, membership status and upcoming programs of the club. she was taught about the history, as well as current and future programs taking place, by Mr. Ram Krishna Karmacharya, president of the press club. Mr. Karmacharya were thankful to Ms. Stoneham for her visit, and appreciated the opportunity to forge a new relationship n the media and journalism sector of Nepal. Ms. Stoneham provided information about the newly opened library at Teku, as well as the one in the US Embassy, which was made open to the public for the occasion . Both of the libraries can be visited by showing a valid identity card. Ms. Stoneham has expressed her encouragement for all press club members to visit the libraries.
    12509433_925866250837034_6560943903801681544_n12562656_10208289887823968_1635994496_o
    Environment Day

    On the Occasion of 70th. Birthday of Ramkrishna Karmacharya
    “-Prem Siwakoti”

    Every day, journalists around the world face the threat of intimidation, censorship, imprisonment and violence, including torture, for their efforts to report on human rights violations. Join Amnesty International and other human rights organizations in marking World Press Freedom Day by taking action and supporting journalists at risk for defending human rights.
    Mr. Ramkrishna Karmacharya whom I have attempted to bring in light in this article on the occasion of the WPFD. My very old and generous Colleague We had first acquainted through the magazine. I used to send my writings in different magazines published under his editorship. He used to publish them. This is the story of the year 1960 AD. Later I met him in Kathmandu. It was not only due to the literature and journalism relation but we also met in the pure social organization like due to heretical relations. We come much closer. My Colleague is a senior journalist, literate a social worker or to say I am trying to height something about Karmacharya, a well known person among the world of international journalists.

    Who: Ramkrishna Karmacharya

    Ramkrishna Karmacharya is working on professional rights, welfare and security. He has been the executive member of International Organization of Journalists and was the Secretary of Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Committe, Nepal. Karmacharya had demanded 50% discount in air fare and life insurance for the journalism profession, being highly risky and sensitive. He says that he will go on working for the development of society till his death. Karmacharya has Higher Diploma in Journalism from Moscow and has traveled to different countries in his capacity of journalist.

    Mr.Karmacharya,who was always worried for professional rights,welfare and security and had been the executive member of International Organization of Journalists,and considering his services in social filled.Nepal Government had was engaged in the work. He also joined Nepal Scout Nepal Red cross life long member.Besides he established under the editorship of Mr.Munindra Raj Shrestha, Daily Mother Land and Naya Sandesh Weekly Mr.Ramesh Nath Pandey.Besides these in his own editorship,the had edited Goreto,Astittwo Weekly,Samannwaya and Daily Newspaper Akhabar also,as well as many magazine.After being elected from Asia by the 12 convention of International Organization of Journalists held in Amman the capital of Jordan,Karmacharya had demanded 50% discount in air fare and life insurgence,for the journalism profession being highly risky and sensitive,on june26,1995 in order to high light the image of Nepal During the period of premiership of Kirti Nidhi Bista and at the time of election of Press council ,Madan Regmi ,supposed to be the right hand of prime minister and director of the government but I ran away escaping from the trap of persons who wanted to distort the journalism professional as he had said.He says that be left politics for journalism in order to go before the public being unprejudiced against the perversion and corruption due to dirty politics which is going into the marsh. Saying that he has never done politics which is not associated with professional rights and welfare,he further says-“the 25% discount which the students get is the out come of students movement cared in 2021/22 B.S.
    Karmacharya, who has passed Higher Diploma in Journalism from Moscow (Russia),has traveled different countries in the capacity of journalist.He was the Secretary of Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Committee of Executive member of World Peace Committee and also in Center Film Censor Board.He,who has taken the training of Nepal Scout Wood-badge,takes the name of real journalists Mr.Gopal Dash Shrestha and Govinda Viyogi.who is getting exhausted with the age factor, has personally recieved Gorkha Dashin bahu award,First Comedy (Gaijatra) Award (Nepal), Buddhas Grand Award (Japan). But he says that he will go on working for the development of society till his death.He visited Korea North & South, China, Vietnam, Chech Republic, Jordan, Zimbabwe, Austria and Australia etc.

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