Kathmandu, June 12
Hundreds of YouTubers, social media users, stand-up comedians and rights activists today gathered in Maitighar Mandala to protest against the arrest of a YouTuber and stand-up comedian Pranesh Gautam, who has been held in police custody for the last six days, for allegedly posting a negative review about a movie, Bir Bikram 2, on a Nepali YouTube channel.
Pranesh was arrested on June 7, two weeks after an FIR was filed against him by the movie maker Milan Chams at police. Pranesh was accused of committing multiple offences like defamation, libel, expressing sexist and racial remarks through social media, along with cyber crime, while reviewing the movie.
The District Court Kathmandu remanded Pranesh to judicial custody for two more days after today’s hearing. Aayush Shrestha, a stand-up comedian, during the protest said, “Police action was a sheer violation of the people’s right to freedom of expression.” He added that police action was influenced by the powerful people in cinema world.
Various organisations representing cinema fraternity have supported the police action, saying that YouTubers should follow certain norms while reviewing a movie. A total of 10 cinema related organisations issuing a joint press release said, “No one should be granted liberty to use foul words and make sexist and racial comments on the pretext of right to expression.”
Filmmaker Chams talking to THT said, “I do not seek any personal vendetta against Pranesh, as reported by some YouTubers, neither was I offended by the movie review. I have just sought proper legal action against the foul words, sexist and racial remarks and the choices of words that have defamed actors and actresses in the movie.”
Deputy Superintendent of Police Hobindra Bogati at Metropolitan Police Range, Teku said that mobiles and laptops of the accused have been sent to a digital forensic lab for investigation, to ascertain whether he had deliberately made the video to defame actors in the movie.
A version of this article appears in print on June 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.