Freedom Forum has warned that a provision in the new bylaws of the Nepal Telecommunications Authority could authorize the blocking of online content through internet service providers.
This statement was originally published on freedomforum.org.np on 22 July 2020.
Freedom Forum his seriously concerned over the recently passed Bylaw of the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). The provision on Rule 12 (L) of the Bylaw warrants serious attention.
The provision states, “Arrangement should be made whereby the service providers are not allowed to receive and disseminate visual, pictures and writing which are obscene and inciting/provocative, stoking social anomalies and threatening the national interests.”
It has further assigned the liability to internet service providers thus placing them in a position to filter and block internet content.
The NTA however has failed to explicitly mention any legal ground upon which the Bylaw is based.
To this, Freedom Forum Executive Chief Taranath Dahal observed, “Once the bylaw is put into practice, the NTA [could be used] to censor contents on the internet via internet service providers, which undoubtedly puts at risk citizens’ right to freedom of expression, information and privacy. It further erodes internet freedoms, rule of law, and democracy. With this, the ISPs can block and filter internet content at any time invoking this provision, which is against the fundamental rights of FoE and information and privacy enshrined in the constitution and international instruments of FoE.”
In Nepal, the internet, in recent years, has not only created civic space but also made it vibrant, thereby facilitating people’s FoE and access to information enabling them to hold the State accountable.
With the expansion of the internet (over 60 percent of the population has internet access) and the use of smart phones, the digital civic sphere is expanding in Nepal. Any policy and law which aims to shrink this civic space will have an adverse impact on FoE and information and privacy.