Nepal government has turned hostile to freedom of expression in recent time. The government’s action in the name of maintaining social harmony has been aimed at imposing restriction on civic freedoms and constitution guaranteed fundamental rights.
On November 13, Council of Ministers decided to ban a popular social media platform, TikTok in Nepal reasoning the platform spread malicious contents and was harmful to social harmony. The decision was made few days after it introduced Directives on Operation of Social Networking Sites-2023 which also drew flak due to its provision of regulating social media, thereby intending to suppress FoE.
Similarly, the day after Cabinet publicized its decision internet service providers blocked TikTok in Nepal following the order of Nepal Telecommunications Authority. Challenging this move of the government, free speech advocates and the TikTok users filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court, demanding retraction on the ban.
In response, the court issued ‘show cause’ order to the government, asking to furnish reasons to ban TikTok within 10 days of the order.
Again, it was followed by the ban on prominent public space in Kathmandu Valley- Maitighar Mandal. The District Administration office, Kathmandu and Lalitpur declared prohibited areas in Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts on November 20 and 21 respectively.
According to the notice undersigned by Kathmandu’s Chief District Officer Jitendra Basnet, road section from Maitighar to New Baneshwor will be prohibited area for any kind of public gatherings from November 20 to December 30 (27 days).
The notice further reads: Conflict and disputes may arise when more than five people of different groups gather at a same place on same date which will badly affect peace and security of the place. Hence, as per section 6 of Local Administration Act, 2028 this order has been issued to maintain peace and safety of the public properties and to avoid any untoward incidents.
The notice has been issued following an opposition party wing’s leader and a businessman’s call to conduct different protest programs in the city on November 23.
Similarly, letter signed by Chief District officer Lalitpur Rudra Prasad Pandit states that road section in the periphery of minister’s residence is declared as prohibited area for any kind of gatherings, demonstrations, protests, meeting, etc effective from November 21 to coming six months.
“Initially, the government’s ban on popular social media platform, TikTok, in Nepal and then, the prohibitory orders in the Kathmandu Valley seem intended to suppress FoE and citizen’s freedoms. Non-transparent measure of Tiktok regulation and prohibitory order on public spaces have direct impact on citizen’s rights of free speech and freedom of assembly and association, which are against constitution and democratic norms”, states Freedom Forum’s Executive Chief Taranath Dahal.
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