The government has proposed a new law that seeks to curtail freedom of expression by introducing harsh punishment for posting “improper” contents on social networking sites that the authorities can construe as a character assassination and an attack on national sovereignty.
In a bill related to management and regulation of information technology, the government has prescribed a fine up to Rs 1.5 million and/or five years imprisonment for individuals who post online contents that fit the above-mentioned offences.
The bill has a provision which states that no one should be defrauded, discouraged, discriminated or discredited through social networking sites.
The proposed law also bars people from publishing advertisements of “banned products” on social networking sites.
The bill, which is set to be tabled in the Parliament by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, also states that the citizens can only use those networking sites that are registered with the Department of Information.
This is not the first instance of the Nepal Communist Party-led government trying to limit the freedom of speech and expression, which is held in high esteem by democratic countries.
Earlier on February 11, the government had tabled a new law at the House of Representatives restricting civil servants from sharing their views on social networking sites.
Similarly, on October 31, 2018, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology had endorsed a policy barring all staff and teachers from criticising the government and political parties or posting comments to that effect on social media.
The Social Media and Mobile Phone Use Directive endorsed by Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel was an attempt to prevent publication of the government’s decisions before they are fully endorsed and to block negative comments on the government’s activities.
International Federation of Journalists, Nepal Press Union criticise proposed law to tighten screws on social media
The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliated Nepal Press Union have strongly criticised a proposal floated by the government to impose harsh penalties for posting contents on social networking sites deemed ‘improper’.
In a statement issued on Friday, the International Federation of Journalists called on the government to hold consultations with stakeholders before bringing the legislation.
In the proposed bill related to the management and regulation of information technology, the government has prescribed a fine up to Rs 1.5 million and/or five years imprisonment for individuals who post online contents deemed by the authorities as a character assassination or an attack on national sovereignty.
Nepal Press Union out rightly criticised the draft bill stating that the steps to control the social networking sites through law have borne out of the regressive mindset. “The steps the government is taking is trying to restrict the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution,” the statement read, adding, “By trying to restrict the use of social networks, where the highest degree of freedom of expression is being practiced, the government is attacking the democracy. The intent and character of the government have been evident through its various decisions including this one.”
The Nepal Press Union has called on all the stakeholders to fight with determination against this effort of the government.
The International Federation of Journalists said the proposed law forwarded by the government is a blatant attempt to control and muzzle freedom of expression on social media. “As noted by Nepal Press Union, freedom of expresses is guaranteed in the constitution of Nepal and this must be respected and protected by the government,” IFJ said in the statement. “We will call on Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to hold immediate consultations with key stakeholders and revise the proposed law as needed.”
The bill includes a provision which states that no one should be defrauded, discouraged, discriminated or discredited through social media.
The proposed legislation, which will be tabled by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, also states that the citizens can only use those networking sites that are registered with the Department of Information.