The government has proposed a new law that seeks to curtail freedom of expression by introducing harsh punishment for posting “improper” contents on social networking sites that the authorities can construe as a character assassination and an attack on national sovereignty.
In a bill related to management and regulation of information technology, the government has prescribed a fine up to Rs 1.5 million and/or five years imprisonment for individuals who post online contents that fit the above-mentioned offences.
The bill has a provision which states that no one should be defrauded, discouraged, discriminated or discredited through social networking sites.
The proposed law also bars people from publishing advertisements of “banned products” on social networking sites.
The bill, which is set to be tabled in the Parliament by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, also states that the citizens can only use those networking sites that are registered with the Department of Information.
This is not the first instance of the Nepal Communist Party-led government trying to limit the freedom of speech and expression, which is held in high esteem by democratic countries.
Earlier on February 11, the government had tabled a new law at the House of Representatives restricting civil servants from sharing their views on social networking sites.
Similarly, on October 31, 2018, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology had endorsed a policy barring all staff and teachers from criticising the government and political parties or posting comments to that effect on social media.
The Social Media and Mobile Phone Use Directive endorsed by Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel was an attempt to prevent publication of the government’s decisions before they are fully endorsed and to block negative comments on the government’s activities.