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Former Secretary remanded in custody over a social media post

Freedom Forum shows its concern towards the arrest of former Secretary Bhim Upadhyay for allegedly posting negative comments on the government's actions and public policies through his social media platforms. He has been held for cybercrime charges by the Central Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police on the 22nd of April. Kathmandu District Court has remanded him three days of custody on the 23rd of April. Kathmandu lies in province no. 3.   

Meanwhile, other FoE practitioners such as journalists, common citizens as well as critics have been arrested for allegedly posting hoax information via social media platforms about the government's passiveness in addressing the COVID-19 crisis. The FoE practitioners have been writing about the mismanagement of public bodies regarding food distributions, delay in providing emergency services, battery inflicted upon the public to enforce the decisions. The government bodies have been claiming that this information tarnished public persona.

At this critical time, most of these practitioners have been charged under the Electronic Transaction Act 2063 and Criminal Code 2017 for allegedly committing indecent behavior in internet platforms for their critical writing. It is alarming to witness the gross misuse of the laws which were intended to prosecute criminal conduct in online space. Presently, it is being used to suppress the news dissemination about government's inactiveness.

The Chief Executive of FF, Tara Nath Dahal says, "This is a very unfortunate incident and is against the notion of Free Speech protected by Constitution of Nepal, 2015".  Article 17 and 19 respectively incorporate citizens' fundamental right which ensures freedom of opinion and expression. However, it is worrying that the state is misusing its resource to silence the FoE practitioners which should have instead been diverted to help the needy during this time. Freedom Forum strongly expresses its dissatisfaction at the state for setting a bad precedent that is tyrannical in nature. Nepal is a democratic country should at all times respect any forms of criticism towards it. It should use criticism as positive feedbacks to review its activities instead of silencing them.

FF stresses once again, at this time of crisis, the value of accurate information is not only important but a necessity. Hence, FF appeals to citizens to always play a crucial role in making government responsible and accountable by utilizing their right to freedom of expression.