Freedom Forum has been alarmed over the announcement of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology that the government was planning to bring a directive on social media/social networking sites.
The Department of Information and Broadcasting under the Ministry is learnt to have prepared the draft of the directive as per which the social media companies operating in Nepal needs to be registered within three months.
The Ministry on Tuesday informed that the directive was being brought to control the inciting speech and statements on social media sites including Facebook and YouTube. It further argued that such expressions were against top institutions and high profile persons.
Earlier too, the Ministry had made such ill-attempt to suppress healthy criticism by controlling the speech online, which, however, was frustrated after severe criticism from civil society and media fraternity. Time and again, this government has tried to suppress press freedom and freedom of expression with regressive bills.
At a time the Electronic Transaction Act has already taken a toll on citizen’s rights to free speech online, the additional directive would further discourage healthy criticism of the government, harass common people and journalists.
Of late, the social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been an effective medium for the people in Nepal to exercise freedom of expression and information and hold government accountable, the directive will silence public voice and dissent, which are normal in democratic system.
Moreover, there are separate legal provisions to deal with defamation and public offense through social media. But such actions in the name of controlling defamation online , which the Ministry claims, is the blatant attempt to violate citizen’s free speech.
“Instead of basing any act for the directive, the government’s plan to bring the directive yet again to regulate social media in the name of curbing ‘inciting speech’ obviously suppresses criticism online. There is neither parliament nor any discussion with stakeholders to make digital space safe and FoE friendly, rather a sheer attempt to control digital public spaces where a huge number of people exercise their rights including FoE and information. So, the latest step is one among a series of attacks this government made against free speech and civic space online. The government must respect citizens’ FoE online. If the directive comes as reported in the media, it is condemnable,” said Taranath Dahal, Executive Chief at Freedom Forum.
Also, FF urges all concerned sides to express solidarity against this ill-attempt.
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