Proposed IT Bill threatens freedom of expression: AI

Khabarhub

January 17, 2020

4 MIN READ

Proposed IT Bill threatens freedom of expression: AI

Amnesty International has criticized the Nepal government for the proposed IT Bill. (Photo: AI)

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KATHMANDU: One of the internationally recognized human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI) has come heavily down on the Nepal government for the IT Bill it has proposed. In its press release made public from London and Kathmandu office recently, Amnesty has cited various reasons for protesting against the proposed IT Bill.

IT Bill provides heavy prison sentences and hefty fines against those who freely express their opinion through an electronic medium. “Nepal’s parliament must amend the Information Technology Bill (IT Bill) to bring into line with international standards and ensure that the law is not used to criminalize the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty International made its opinion on the Bill which is likely to jeopardize the right amnesty and other human rights watchdogs are concerned about.

Despite the widespread criticism from Nepal’s civil society, the proposed IT Bill, if passed as it is,  empowers the government to arbitrarily censor content online, including on social media, and punish offenders with up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1.5 million Nepali rupees (approximately 13,000 USD). AI has regarded IT Bill as one of the 3 proposed bills containing ‘vague and overbroad clauses’ to unduly restrict the freedom of expression.

With the intolerant past track), the government seems to be making many bills thwarting the fundamental right related to the freedom of expression and right to press and publication.

It is worth noting that journalist Arjun Giri was charged under the Electronic Transactions Act, 2006, in April, comedian Pranesh Gautam was arrested for posting a satirical film review on YouTube in June and Durgesh Thapa and Samir Ghishing (VTEN) were arrested for the content of their songs in October. Earlier, popular folk singer Pashupati Sharma under pressure had edited widely acclaimed song against corruption ‘Lutna sake lut.’ These instances are taken as the representative instances showing the government’s growing intolerance.

AI thinks that the bills have been proposed against the backdrop of intensifying attacks on free expression in the country.

“Nepal was once envied by people across the region for its openness towards critical views and opinions. That reputation is now at risk as the government continues to crack down on what people say, write and even sing. The IT Bill and all other legislation must be amended and brought into line with international law and standards to guarantee people’s right to freedom of expression,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

Several provisions in the IT Bill do not meet international human rights law and standards. For example, section 94 of the bill vaguely criminalizes people who post content on social media if it is deemed to be against “national unity, self-respect, national interest, the relationship between federal units.” Amnesty says.

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