Freedom Forum conducted a brief orientation program for journalists in Hetauda on September 9, 2022. During the orientation, journalists were made aware on the importance of digital safety and use of safety tools along with protection and promotion of free speech on cyber space. They were shared that legislative efforts surrounding information technology and cyber could have the provisions that breach free speech on cyber and digital space. References of the Information Technology Bill brought by the federal government were given on the occasion. The policy brief prepared by FF on the IT Bill was distributed among the participants and civil society members as part of the knowledge building on the above mentioned issues.

Similarly, FF’s recent publications on digital safety- Urgency of digital safety and Digital safety toolkit for journalists were also distributed among the journalists. The participants include local journalists and members of Federation of Nepali Journalists, Bagmati Province Chapter.

During the program, the journalists also shared the challenges they face while reporting news online. Senior journalist in Hetauda, Rammani Dahal, said though digital journalism was growing in the province as well, there is little knowledge among the people and journalists on how the free speech could be protected on digital/cyber spaces. They believed the publication of FF would help build knowledge on this issue so that they could prod the policy makers and lawmakers on ensuring human rights on cyber space.

Similarly on the same day, a discussion program was conducted in Janakpurdham, Madhesh Province. In the program, Mayor of Janakpur Sub-Metropolitan City, Provincial lawmakers, different political party representatives, policy makers and journalists discussed problematic provisions on the proposed IT Bill and worried that the bill should not target towards curtailing human rights on the online space.

The discussion was based on FF’s review on the bill in line with Nepal’s constitution, existing laws, international instruments on human rights, especially the UDHR, and ICCPR, and the Budapest Convention. The attendees were also made aware about the safety of journalists online and offline.

Earlier, Chief Executive Taranath Dahal participated in different discussion programs in Biratnagar (Province 1), Pokhara (Gandaki Province) and Butwal (Lumbini Province) in July 2022.

On July 3, Dahal held discussion among province policy makers, ministers, civil society representatives and journalists how human rights issues could be addressed while formulating information technology bill/ policy at the province level. They were also made aware and informed about international practices and Freedom Forum’s policy analysis paper. FF’s publications cyber on security strategy and policy discussion paper were also distributed among total 36 participants.

On July 6, Dahal discussed about FF’s recent review on Information Technology Bill and cyber security strategy among 10 Province Assembly Members, 10 ministry secretaries, Secretary at Office of the Chief Minister and Council of Ministers, Provincial Assembly Secretariat employees, Chief District Officer of Kaski, media persons, civil society representatives, 7 information officers and 8 political party representatives in Pokhara, Gandaki Province.

Similarly, on July 8, Executive Chief Dahal shared FF’s publications among Speaker of Province Assembly, 7 Province Assembly members, 5 employees at Province Assembly, Chief Secretary of Province Government, information officers and other concerned stakeholders in Lumbini Province.

While sharing the efforts at federal level on IT Bill and other issues surrounding human rights on cyber/space, the province lawmakers were keen to know more on cyber-related issues so that they could build knowledge and formulate necessary policies and laws to make people aware on digital literacy, ensuring their human rights like free expression at the same time.

#humanrights #cyberspace #cybersecurity #digitalsafety