Wednesday, 19 January, 2022

No Restriction On Press Freedom

Press freedom is an indispensable part of a dynamic democracy that ensures people's rights to free expression. Our constitution has preserved the provision of freedom of speech and press freedom that we all must comply with. However, rights to enjoy freedom do not mean that one should violate the rights of other people, groups or organisations. The laws of the land prohibit that no one should violate others’ freedom and rights in the name of exercising their own. Such an act must be punished and the government authorities must act to discourage this impulse among our people, media outlets, and the social media networks, which are frequently used to attack and harm other's liberty, privacy and rights to live life in their own ways.

Following the deluge of events in which the social media network users were found violating their rights and the country's laws by making personal assaults on the people and public figures, the government authority lately has mulled bringing forth a new regulation - the Social Media Regulation, so that such unsavoury objectionable incidents could be dealt with. In the absence of such law, many social media network users with malicious intention or hidden agenda have been making undesired comments about other citizens, especially women and public figures and leaders. These people often pay a heavy price for character assassination and unwarranted mudslinging.

The situation has become worse in recent times when a plenty of internet-based news organisations, and, notably, YouTube channels become easily available to all and sundry, which has allowed its users to post whatever comments or observations they like to make from wherever they have been staying. These incidents without a doubt call for a robust system to supervise social media networks in the country. However, such a mechanism or arrangement should not aim at curbing people's rights to freedom of speech or press freedom. Minister for Communication and Information Technology has explicitly stated the newly mulled Social Media Regulation would not curb press freedom. Rather, the growing instances of infringement, defamation, character assassinations, personal charges on the women and public figures and common citizens have necessitated the authority to contemplate the regulation.

Media in the country that requires being circumspect must be accountable for its acts, and feel responsible towards society while thoroughly enjoying press freedom. In the meantime, all forms of social media should abide by the country's law. The regulation aims at registering social media networks operating in the country at the concerned government agencies so that the government authority can supervise them easily. According to the minister, the regulation will come into operation only after having dialogues with concerned bodies, including the Federation of the Nepali Journalists. There is no motive on the government’s part to implement it without seeking recommendations from the concerned parties. The minister's explanation has thus cleared the atmosphere of confusion about whether the new regulation would curtail press freedom in the country. The regulation has indeed aimed at controlling the waywardness of those who use social media networks to ruin other citizens' rights by making outrageous and denigrating comments.