Nepal social media bill sparks freedom of speech concerns

February 20, 2019
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have millions of users in Nepal, whose population of about 30 million has an internet penetration of about 57 percent

Nepal's government on Wednesday tabled draft legislation that would impose harsh penalties for "improper" social media posts, igniting concerns it could be used to suppress freedom of speech and stifle dissent.

Under the proposed law, the government would have the power to block like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube unless they register in Nepal.

And social media posts deemed defamatory or against national sovereignty could be punished with up to five years in jail and a fine of 1.5 million Nepalese rupees ($13,000).

No timetable was given for passing the bill, but activists have described it as an attempt to shackle criticism of the powerful communist government, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament.

"The bill is against the freedom of expression and justice as it criminalises online expression," Tara Nath Dahal of Freedom Forum, a media freedom organisation, told AFP.

The government has defended the bill, saying it is needed to ensure data and internet security.

"The bill was registered to manage social networking sites because the challenges caused by such sites are increasing," information minister Gokul Prasad Baskota told parliament.

Under the proposed law, the government can also instruct social network site operators to remove posts. Failure to do so could lead to a three-year jail term and a 30,000-rupee fine.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the government to address concerns raised by rights groups.

"The proposed law put forward by the Nepal government is a blatant attempt to control and muzzle freedom of expression on social ," it said in a statement.

"Freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Nepal constitution, and this must be respected and protected by the government."

The ruling party has shown increasing intolerance for dissent since its landslide victory in 2017.

Another law barring from criticising policies on was tabled earlier this month.

A popular folk singer was forced to take down a satirical anti-corruption song from YouTube last week after pressure from ruling party cadres.

Nepal, with a population of about 30 million, has an internet penetration of 57 percent.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have millions of users in the South Asian nation.

Explore further: Journalists slam pending Bangladesh digital security law

Related Stories

Vietnam's draconian cybersecurity bill comes into effect

January 1, 2019

A law requiring internet companies in Vietnam to remove content communist authorities deem to be against the state came into effect Tuesday, in a move critics called "a totalitarian model of information control".

Anger as Zambia announces tax on internet calls

August 20, 2018

Zambia will tax phone calls made over the internet to protect traditional telecoms companies, the government said Monday, a move activists warned would stifle freedom of expression.

Egypt looks to monitor popular social media users

June 28, 2018

Freedom of expression may shrink further in Egypt where lawmakers have approved the first reading of a bill that would monitor popular social media users in the name of combating "false news".

Fighting 'fake news' with the law

July 13, 2018

Some countries are bringing in legislation to fight "fake news", a particular menace during election campaigning, but critics warn of the danger to freedom of expression and the media.

Recommended for you

Paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

March 22, 2019

University of Alberta paleontologists have just reported the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. The 13-metre-long T. rex, nicknamed "Scotty," lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan ...

NASA instruments image fireball over Bering Sea

March 22, 2019

On Dec. 18, 2018, a large "fireball—the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area—exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 ...

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.