January 28: The Legislative Committee of the upper house of Parliament on Monday (January 27) endorsed the controversial Media Council Bill after the government agreed to remove provisions that curtail press freedom.
The bill has been endorsed after removing the provision of fining journalists up to Rs 1 million for violating media code of conduct.
The bill presented by the government in parliament some months ago had drawn widespread criticism for curtailing the freedom guaranteed by the constitution.
The bill had initially proposed fining journalists and media houses between Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 million for breaching the code of conduct issued by the Media Council. But such provision has now been removed. Instead, the bill proposes amicable solution of disputes between media houses and their opponents. The new provision states that the media council shall mediate for reconciliation between the complainant and the media organization.
Any individual can move the court demanding compensation for the loss from media content in violation of the media code but the council needs to recommend action against the media houses.
The committee has added a new provision to the bill, making it mandatory for aspiring journalists to obtain a license for the job from now onwards.
The revised bill has proposed that the chairperson of the council will be appointed by the government from among senior advocates or advocates having qualification to be the justice of the Supreme Court or from among journalists having 15 years of experience in the newsroom with post-graduate degree.
The bill will be forwarded to the lower house for deliberations.