This statement was originally published on freedomforum.org.np on 13 June 2019.
Freedom Forum is concerned over the alarming rise in cybercrime cases registered and prosecuted in Nepal lately. In the fiscal year 2018/2019 (until 13 June), 180 cases of cybercrime were registered in Nepal, among which 125 cases were from the Kathmandu Valley alone and 55 cases from outside the valley. This is a sharp rise compared to the previous fiscal year- when 132 cases were registered throughout the year. In the year 2016/017 only 53 cases of cybercrime were registered at Nepal Police.
Cybercrime has been a new weapon for the Nepal Police to suppress the voice of journalists, writers, and comedians who come up with investigative and sarcastic content that is intolerant of the government or people associated with it.
A prominent case is that of journalist Raju Basnet who was harassed with a cybercrime case for writing a report about the connection between political leaders of the ruling party and several land mafias. Similarly, in the latest incident, a young Nepali Youtuber Pranesh Gautam was arrested and kept under custody for six days for reviewing a Nepali movie and presenting satirical comment about the film. The dissatisfaction of the wider society over the arrest of the Youtuber was visible as people staged a demonstration in his support.
During the visit to the police station for a study on the cybercrime cases, Freedom Forum observed that there was no proper record keeping of the cybercrime cases and neither were the officials aware of the issue of internet freedom, freedom of expression and cybercrime. Moreover, security officials’ culture of hesitation to share data makes it more difficult to trace the detailed background and content of the ongoing cases of cybercrime.
Freedom Forum condemns the arrest of content creator and youtuber Pranesh Gautam, who has been unnecessarily harassed under section 47 of the Electronic Transaction Act 2008. The problem stemming from the opinion expressed by the Youtuber could have been solved outside the court and without taking him into custody. This is a simple case of defamation and could have been resolved easily. Charging the Youtuber with a criminal offense and keeping him in custody suppresses freedom of expression and internet freedom.
FF urges the stakeholders and institutions working in the field of freedom of expression to keep a close eye on the case and take a stand against the security officials’ actions that suppress press freedom in the country.
Source: MEDIA FEED