Freedom Forum is happy to share that Kathmandu District Court gave its decision in favor of journalist Gaurav Khanal, sub-editor of onlineaawaj.com on September 24. Journalist Khanal, who was accused of cyber crime, was acquitted in the case. FF had provided him legal support.
A case was filed wrongly against Khanal under the Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) 2006, accusing him of 'publishing fake news' on March 29, 2018. The fake news was 'the death of 33 people on a bomb explosion in Kathmandu'. He was alleged to have conducted the act in association with onlineaawaj.net, which, actually had no link at all with his media- onlineaawaj.com. He is only the operator and sub- editor of his own online newspaper- onlineaawaj.com. The media that Khanal is involved with has neither written nor shared any misleading news as claimed by the plaintiff.
The aforementioned online media namely, onlineaawaj.net and onlineaawaj.com -are operated as different media. Similarly, the contact persons mentioned in their websites and Facebook pages are different from Khanal as well. With sheer misuse of ETA by the authority, Khanal was falsely charged for publishing fake news which is to instigate terror and fear among the general public. He was charged under Section 47(1) of the ETA.
It is worth noting that there is only one court to look after the cybercrime cases- Kathmandu District Court. Khanal, who is from Butwal, a city outside the federal capital, had to undergone severe harassment in course of the investigation.
Freedom Forum strongly believes that it is imperative for the plaintiff to be mindful to use the law in proper way. The verdict came in favour of Khanal proves that the ETA is time and again used to harass and torture innocent people. It has the negative implication that journalists would not dare to operate online media and suffer self censorship. Implicating journalists with false charge further downs their morale and ruin media professionalism. The role of free media must be recognized by the State authorities and stop harassing journalists.
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