Narayan Prasad Ghimire (Kathmandu) : Flurry of views and comments on social networks on any public issue and their viral spread has been normal with the expansion of internet in Nepal too. One of the modern wonders, the internet, has been the quickest medium to circulate ideas and information and augment business thereby superseding other medium gradually. At present, practice and promotion of freedom1 of expression (FoE) without internet has been unimaginable.
Although the internet is regarded as a vast open university, restriction to its access, arrest of common citizens over their views and journalists on news stories, are not the unheard stories. At such, how the policies and laws pertaining to the FoE practices on internet are in Nepal and how the current status of internet freedom1 is may be the issue of interests for many sectors.
According to a report named ‘freedom1 of Expression on Internet in Nepal,’ released by the freedom1 Forum recently, the laws and policies are not that that friendly to boost the FoE on internet.
The report has advocated for developing internet as a booster and facilitator of free expression practice with enabled and accommodative environment in view of the changed political and constitutional contexts.
It has assessed the Electronic Transaction Act 2008 as one of the hostile laws to the FoE practice on internet. Presenting various cases of harassment and intimidation on journalists and common people for exercising FoE on internet based media, the report has even recommended for the clarity on the constitutional provision relating to FoE, amendment of ETA 2008 and scrapping of Online Media Operation and Management Directive.
A large section of population is still waiting for access to high-speed internet and computers, the report says, adding that because of the poor internet and ICT literacy, and lack of recognition to the internet as the effective modern medium of communication, the debate on internet freedom1 is quite new.
Speaking about the relevance of the report, Chairperson of freedom1 Forum, Taranath Dahal, argues, “The report brought at a time when the internet users have increased significantly resulting in their active participation in the digital platforms would not only whet the debates on issues of public importance but also contribute to freedom1 of expression practice in the digital world.”
Moreover, the report has pointed out the need of clear and comprehensive policy and laws to protect the rights of free expression practitioners including common citizens and journalists, augmented watchdog role of FoE rights groups/defenders to effectively monitor internet-based free expression issues, and de- criminalization of the laws governing FoE on internet. (Source: National News Agency, RSS)