Nepal’s new law criminalizes expression, restricts press freedom21 Aug, 2018
Nepal’s new Criminal Codes Act 2018 curtails freedom of expression and the press. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and the Nepal Press Union (NPU) in expressing serious concerns over some restrictive provisions; and demand immediate amendments in the Act.
The new Act along with the Civil Codes Act 2018 became law on August 17, 2018, replacing 15 laws including 55-year-old civil and criminal laws. Some provisions of the Act, especially Sections 293 to 308 relating to privacy and defamation, are restrictive to the press freedom and criminalize expression.
Section 293 prohibits listening or recording conversations without consent; Section 294 prohibits publicizing private information without consent; Section 295 prohibits taking photos without consent; Section 296 prohibits selling or publishing of photos for commercial purpose without the consent of the subject in the photographs; Section 298 prohibits receiving or sending or publishing unauthorized information on an electronic medium; Section 305 prohibits slander; and Section 306 prohibits libel, including those in satirical ways. Violations are punishable between one to three years in prison and Rs 10,000 to Rs. 30,000 (USD 100 to 300) in fines.
Govinda Acharya, the FNJ president, said: “More than 80 journalists faced criminal cases and harassment due to one provision in the Electronic Transaction Act for their news. The new Act has dozens of such provisions that criminalizes written or spoken expression, and journalists face imprisonment up to three years for merely writing news. This is against the international standards and principles of press freedom; as well as the Constitution of Nepal.”
The FNJ has announced nation-wide protests from August 28 to September 7.
Badri Sigdel, the NPU president, said: “The NPU condemns the Act with provisions that restrict journalists to report, write and take photographs. Such restrictions are against the democratic norms and values; and indicate towards authoritarianism. The NPU demands immediate amendment in the unacceptable provisions of the law.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ expresses serious concerns over the restrictive provisions of the Criminal Codes Act of Nepal; and demands immediate amendments to ensure they adhere to the international standards and principles of freedom of expression and press freedom. At the time when Nepali media and journalists are facing security threats, such provisions will be misused to harass journalists and media; and obstruct independent as well as investigative journalism.”