Freedom Forum organized a ‘Seminar on Freedom of Expression on Internet and Internet/Digital Safety’ on November 16, 2017 in Kathmandu. The program gathered stakeholders from diverse sectors including media, academia, schools, law, Ministry of Education, Curriculum Development Center and other line agencies.
Shedding light upon objective of the program, Freedom Forum Executive Chief Mr Taranath Dahal explained internet has now become a mainstream medium to exercise FoE. In this light, FF has made study how formal education has incorporated issues of internet safety. Similarly, issues of digital safety and FoE practice online and challenges would make aware the participants, he added.
The program was conducted in three different interactive sessions.
In the first session, FF’s Chairperson and educationist Mr Hari Binod Adhikari presented a paper on ‘Curriculum review through FoE and Internet safety lenses’. In his presentation, Chairperson Adhikari mentioned that information regarding internet safety was missing in the school textbooks. Suggesting that the school curriculum should be revised on time, he recommended that ICT, FoE and Internet safety be incorporated in the school curriculum so that the students would be able to make the safe use of internet, thereby augmenting healthy atmosphere for FoE online.
On the occasion Spokesperson at Ministry of Education, Dr. Hari Lamsal, commented Adhikari’s presentation, saying Internet is always changing. It in flux, so it is difficult to incorporate every aspect of Internet issues and safety into the curriculum, he said, adding that curriculum, however, can not be observed in isolation.
Similarly, Executive Director at Curriculum Development Centre, Krishna Prasad Kapri, suggested the study of the implementation status of existing curriculum because the curriculum cannot be evaluated in isolation.
On the same occasion, FNJ Vice President Bipul Pokharel suggested that curriculum should reflect society and social change which is guided by ICT influence. Hence, teachers should be frequently given orientation on modern ICT issues.
In the second session, advocate Santosh Sigdel presented his paper on ‘FoE on Internet: National and International Practices and National Challenges’. He stated FoE is an enabler of other rights and thus, every rights enjoyed offline should also be guaranteed online. He further stressed on need to include internet values in school curriculum.
Another commentator Mr Prabesh Subedi, former President Online Journalists Association, shared that our problem lies in difficulty to understand internet. Internet is democracy but we are not democrat. Imposing traditional values to modern innovation is a real challenge in Nepal, he argued.
The third session started with Media researcher Ujjwal Acharya’s presentation on ‘Risks for children online’. On his paper, he mentioned Adhikari’s curriculum review saying, computer and internet contents are merely technology oriented; they are not linked to social awareness. Quoting previous studies, he derived for factors – legal mechanism, practical help system, digital literacy/ education and awareness program lacking in Nepal on Internet safety. Hence there is urgent need of digital awareness, he underscored.
Commenting on Acharya’s paper Deputy Inspector General of Nepal Police, Pushkar Karki, informed that security persons’ hands are tied by Acts and rules. However, if the laws and acts are clear, security body does not play on gray area hence, gradual revision on acts and regulations is necessary, he argued. Also parents should have open conversation with their children, he opined.
Another commentator, Mr Manoj Kandel, Chairperson of Child NGO Federation, suggested that parents’ and children’s education must be linked up in the digital use and sphere.
Adding to the researches, one of the participants Mr Govinda Pandey, and engineer from National Exam Board suggested that the study could have expanded on the right to access in addition to right to information and free expression. He also stated that Right to Access should be incorporated in Nepal’s law as well.
Another participant, Mr Lekhnath Pandey, Assistant Lecturer stressed the need to augment balanced debate on both good and bad aspects internet and its safety.
Among the students group, Ms Purnima Pandey from Padmakanya Bidhya Mandir complained that merely changing curriculum is not the only solution because the problem lies in teaching methodologies and infrastructures as well. “What does revision of curriculum do while there are no infrastructures in rural Nepal?” She wondered.
Similarly, Mr Loknath Bhattarai from ICT Department argued on the need to develop mechanism on the use of social media.
Appreciating the FF’s conduct, Member of Computer Association’s Nepal Federation, Mr Hempal Shrestha, commented that the study and discussion were more prescriptive; so let’s be more retrospective on Internet issues. “There are several benefits of internet,” he said, adding that first, bright sides of internet should be publicized.
Listening the views and suggestions from participants, researcher Mr Acharya stressed on need for parents and teachers to know well whether it’s the talent or misconduct of their children to hack password.
The program was organized under the project ‘Increased Internet literacy for better protection of freedom of expression online’ with the support of IFEX, the global network defending and promoting freedom of expression.
The program was attended by a total of 76 participants including 20 females.