Govt urged to rectify controversial IT Bill

Kathmandu, January 21

Stakeholders have called on the government to rectify anti-press provisions in the Information Technology Bill, which is under deliberation in the House of Representatives.

The controversial bill was recently endorsed by the Parliamentary Development and Technology Committee.

Speaking at an interaction on ‘IT Bill and Concern of Citizens’ organised jointly by the Federation of Nepali Journalists, Nepal Bar Association and NGO Federation of Nepal in Kathmandu today, they reiterated that some of the provisions stipulated in the bill were in contravention of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution.

FNJ President Govinda Acharya said various bills tabled in the Parliament were against the fundamental principles of democracy. The bill gives plenty of space for the authorities to curb freedom of expression and press freedom.

“Some of the provisions of the IT Bill, if passed by the Parliament, will muzzle the freedom of expression.

Therefore, we want the government to rectify them at the earliest. We won’t withdraw our protest programmes until the controversial provisions are rectified,” he said.

Chandeshwor Shrestha, President of Nepal Bar Association said the government drafted the bill without consulting with the stakeholders.

“Law is enacted to protect and promote citizens’ rights. Any law, which curtails rights of the people will not be acceptable. Provision of Information Technology Court in the bill is against the independent judiciary set forth in Article 128 of the constitution. It threatens jurisdiction of the court,” he said.

Jitram Lama, president of NGO Federation of Nepal said the incumbent government was attempting to curtail the citizen’s rights by drafting draconian bills one after another, and appealed to all to stand united against it. “Democracy is strengthened only when the constitution is respected and voice of the citizens is heard,” he said.

According to the stakeholders the bill includes provisions to impose fine of up to Rs 1.5 million or jail terms up to five years for posting content on social media, that in the eyes of the government, may pose threat to the ‘country’s sovereignty, security, unity or harmony’.

The bill also includes mandatory provisions for social media companies to be registered in Nepal to open their offices in the country.

The bill, if enacted into law will replace the existing Electronic Transactions Act, which has been widely misused to arrest and harass citizens over their posts on social media. According to cybercrime cell at Nepal Police, 106 cases were filed in Kathmandu valley in the past three years for ‘illegal’ posts on social media.