13 June 2019
Freedom Forum is concerned over the alarming rise of 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 are from the Kathmandu Valley alone and 55 cases were from outside the valley. This is a sharp rise compared to the previous fiscal year- where 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 the journalists, writers, and comedians who come up with the investigative and sarcastic content that is intolerant to the government or people associated with it.
Prominent is the case of journalist Raju Basnet who was harassed with the cybercrime for writing news about the connection between political leaders of ruling party and several land mafias. Similarly, in the latest incident, a young Nepali youtuber Pranesh Gautam is arrested and kept under the custody since six days for reviewing a Nepali movie and presenting satirical comment about the same. Dissatisfaction from the wider group is visible for the arrest of the youtuber where people are staging demonstration in his support.
During the visit at police station for the study about 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. Hesitant data sharing culture from security officials make 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 Electronic Transaction Act 2008. The problem faced by the opinion of the youtuber could have been solved outside the custody and court. This is a simple case of defamation and could have been resolved easily. Charging the youtuber with criminal offense and keeping him under the custody suppresses the 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 stand against the security officials' actions that suppress press freedom in the country.