The Nepal government showed signs of some flexibility on two controversial Bills — one that has angered the media as well as free speech advocates, and the other that has attracted the ire of religious and traditional institutions — following a series of protests in the capital for the past one week.
One of the Bills seeks to replace the existing Press Council with a media council led by a government-appointed chief, who would have sweeping powers to impose fines up to Rs 1 million on editors, reporters or publishers if they are found guilty of defamation.
In the absence of Prime Minister K P Oli, who is away in Europe, Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel, along with other top officials, held a meeting with over two dozen editors to hear their views on the matter. Most of the editors spoke against the Bill. After this, Pokharel said the government was committed to press freedom and indicated that the Bill, which is under consideration of Parliament, may be altered
The other controversial Bill, known as the ‘Guthi Bill’, seeks to amend the law governing religious and private trusts in order to bring their property and management under a government-controlled authority.
The Bill has provoked members of around 80 Guthis, or social organisations, to hold daily protests in Kathmandu for the past week.
Janakral Joshi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Land Management, said the government was willing to listen to stakeholders. Land Reforms Minister Padma Aryal also held a meeting with an action
committee of the trusts Wednesday night.