March 9, 2022

Joint Press Statement

The stakeholders have been concerned over the amendment of the Rules of the National Broadcasting Regulation (Eleventh Amendment) 2078, for it has ambiguous and over-broad provisions, undermining the right to freedom of expression, right to broadcast and principle of open internet. The amendment of the Regulation has also gone beyond the provisions in the National Broadcasting Act and breached the principle of comprehensibility of law, while the government egregiously ignored the consultation before amendment.

Supremacy of law prevails while formulating laws. The Acts are made in accordance with the provisions of constitution, and regulations as per the Act. Statutes lay the legal principles and prescribe the substantive provisions, pursuant to which, procedural aspect is dealt by the Regulations. The Regulation and control of broadcasting through the internet medium, an issue not envisaged by the National Broadcasting Act, 2049, by amending the Regulation to add new issue based on “other communication mediums’ as per Section 5  has raised serious question over the legality of the regulation.

Legal definitions need to be clear and concise. But, the definition of terms like “Over the Top” (O.T.T.), “Video on Demand” and “Online Television” are vague and ambiguous, which evidently invite ambiguity and confusion in the future. Similarly, the definition of “Online Television” seems to have adhered to social media (platforms) that is vital for freedom of expression. Therefore, this amendment appears as a weapon to limit and restrict freedom of expression and open internet, affecting the constitutional and legal rights of the citizens. It is not clear whether the objective of the regulation is to collect revenue or regulate contents broadcasted, or register platforms run via internet. The prescribed fee for licensing and prior approval is not practical and justified either.

Although the provision on age categorization and self-regulation of the content broadcasted by O.T.T. platforms are commendable, the provisions are incomplete and need further explanation.

We therefore would like to draw the attention of the government to immediately stop the implementation of National Broadcasting (Eleventh Amendment) Regulation 2078, reasoning its vague and problematic provisions, and to implement it only after the amendment or repeal the problematic provisions by conducting necessary coordination and consultation with the stakeholders. Similarly, we believe that the move of present government to restrict the citizen’s freedom of expression with the amendment of Regulation assaults the constitutional spirit and raises grave concern regarding the political and governance accountability.

Taranath Dahal                                                            Adv. Santosh Sigdel

Executive Chief                                                                     Chairperson

Freedom Forum Nepal                                                Digital Rights Nepal