How new criminal laws threaten Nepal journalism

A Nepalese roadside vendor reads the news in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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How new criminal laws threaten Nepal journalism

  • The codes prohibit publishing private information, including of officials, ban recording without permission and require photographers to obtain permits in order to take pictures and sell and publish them

KATMANDU, Nepal: Journalists in Nepal are demanding changes to new criminal and civil codes they say undermine freedom of speech and expression.
The laws that took effect last month are general codes of conduct that apply to all citizens of Nepal, but press freedom groups say harsher sentences for libel and privacy violations are having a chilling effect on journalists in the small Himalayan country. Here are some details:
WHY THE NEW LAWS CAME ABOUT
Nepal’s new civil and criminal codes are the result of a new constitution adopted in 2015. Nepalese lawmakers had three years to design a set of laws that prescribe how the constitution should be interpreted. The codes cover everything from stipulating the legal age of marriage to enshrining property rights and describe how each civil violation or crime can be punished.
WHY THEY ARE CONTROVERSIAL
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression. But provisions of the new codes appear to limit these freedoms, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “Nepal’s new criminal code marks a giant step backward for press freedom,” program coordinator Steven Butler said in a statement. For example, the codes make criticizing the president or members of Parliament criminal acts. The codes also prohibit publishing private information, including of officials, ban recording without permission and require photographers to obtain permits in order to take pictures and sell and publish them. The codes say that authorities can detain suspects for up to 40 days while investigating criminal charges. “Now journalists will be first detained and treated like murder suspects even before they are tried or given a chance to clarify,” said Ramesh Bistra, general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, which has vowed to fight for the codes to be amended. The codes also ban satire, which in Nepal has been a prominent feature in the press and a popular form of protest throughout the country’s changing forms of government — from monarchy to autocratic rule to constitutional monarchy to the republic established in 2007.
CHILLING EFFECT
Press freedom groups say the language of the laws is broad enough to be used as a tool to attack journalists and deter them from doing their work. The four sections on privacy and defamation decree sentences of up to three years in prison and $260 in fines. Previously, journalists could be fined up to $217 for libel. “These new laws have created an environment of fear for the journalists and more and more of them are now practicing self-censorship,” said Taranath Dahal, who heads the Freedom Forum, a Nepal-based media rights group.
GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE
In response to journalists’ protests, the Nepalese government has formed a committee to recommend changes to the codes’ language. This committee, with representatives from several media rights groups and unions, has been given 45 days to come up with recommendations. The government, however, is not obliged to follow them. Even if the government accepts the changes, lawmakers would have to draft amendments, which would then have to be debated in Parliament before changes could be made. This could take months if not years in Nepal. Until then, the controversial new codes remain in effect.


Netflix unveils $2 billion debt issue to fund new content

Updated 22 October 2018
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Netflix unveils $2 billion debt issue to fund new content

LONDON: Netflix announced its third tap of debt markets in a year on Monday, aiming to raise about $2 billion as the streaming video pioneer invests heavily in original shows and acquiring content to fend off intensifying competition.
Netflix bond prices were little moved immediately after the announcement, but can be expected to fall, as the additional debt adds to the company’s credit risk. Shares in the company dipped 1 percent in early trading.
Netflix said in April it planned to raise $1.5 billion in debt, after raising $1.6 billion in October last year, bringing the total to about $5 billion.
The company has consistently said that it expects to fund content acquisition through the high-yield bond market and is expected to spend around $9 billion on content this year, based on blockbuster third-quarter results announced last week.
The new debt will be in the form of senior notes denominated in US dollars and euros — a type of debt the company needs to repay if it goes bankrupt.
Bearish bets against Netflix’s existing $8.4 billion of junk-rated bonds have more than tripled this year to an all-time high of $347 million, Reuters reported last week.
“The short balance in the actual bonds reflects a view that (the bonds) will decline in value if or when they issue more debt,” said Samuel Pierson, analyst at IHS Markit.
Netflix’s total debt stood at $11.83 billion as of Sept.30.
Netflix said on Monday it intends to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes, which may include content acquisitions, production and development, potential acquisitions and strategic transactions.