Freedom Forum (FF) organized policy IT Bill’s stakeholder discussion on 30th June 2019 in Kathmandu. The program was conducted in the presence of the members of the Development and Technology Committee of House of Representatives (HoR), Legislation Management Committee of National Assembly (NA), other members of parliament lawyers and concerned stakeholders in order to develop common understanding over conflicting issues and define the strategy and way forward on the IT Bill.

FF previously reviewed and suggested amendment provisions to the parliamentarians and other stakeholders to amend the problematic provisions in the bill. As per FF’s recommendation, IT Bill enshrines the provisions that curtail freedom of expression online by introducing harsh punishments by criminalizing the expression via posting ‘improper ‘contents on social media and any other online media.

Considering different stakeholder concerns and suggestions parliamentarians put a number of amendment proposal for amendments to the IT Bill. During the discussion over conflicting issues of the bill, the sub-committee could not accommodate the major amendments in the report. So, in this context, Freedom Forum organized this event to push the stakeholder and concern committee for accommodating the amendment while finalizing the report. Freedom Forum’s Chief Executive Taranath Dahal introduced the objective and major strategic concern over the bill to the policymakers and other stakeholders and delivered concerns related to the freedom of expression in the bill.

Legal and Policy Advisor of FHI360, Tanka Aryal showed his concern to the parliamentarians over-process on how the bill was drafted and what are the probable further procedure could be adopted before finalization from parliament.

Answering to the queries of Aryal, HoR member Pushpa Bhusal stated about how the bill is drafted and goes through various committees or sub-committee and lastly approved from both houses. Updating the status, Ram B Bista further shared the ongoing progress of the bill at Technology and Development Committee. Other committee members Minakshi Jha, Rangamati Shahi put their concern over the bill. Similarly, National Assembly Member, Surendra Pandey, Bricheschandra Lal, Anita Devkota, Badri Pandey and Prakash Panth also participated in the discussion and shared the probable bill reform role in NA. 

Addressing the concern of MPs Advocate Santosh Sigdel said the major focus of the bill is to regulate the IT sector but not provide the platform to facilitate and flourish it. Most of the provisions of the bill leave the space for executive to play inconvenience he further added. Advocate Baburam Aryal emphasized the chronological development of drafting phase of the bill. He further remarks that at least four bills had to come in this sector but all sector are accommodated into one. Furthermore, he explained that the IT court should only be allowed for civil nature of case not criminal. Adding the points on cybercrime, he said ISP shouldn’t make responsible for sharing internet content.  IT Policy Analyst Saroj Pathak pointed out that the bill does not provide an opportunity for startups and innovation and also highlighted the provision against FoE. Concluding the program, the IT stakeholders CAN and FNCCI, Internet Society shows their commitment to putting pressure and their concerns on Government the parliament reforming the provisions in the bill.

The program held as part of the program “Civil Society Mutual Accountability Project (CS: MAP)”, supported by FHI360; was attended by 27 participants. Out of 27 participants, there were 8 female participants in the program.