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Nepal’s new IT bill seeks to curb freedom of opinion and expression

As proposed by the Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli administration, the new Information Technology Bill 2075 (2018) of Nepal is being dubbed as a legislation designed to control social media and its misuse. The Bill will replace the prevailing Electronic Transaction Act, 2006. It aims to give powers to the Department of Information Technology to impose excessive restrictions on platforms. Civil rights advocates say that the Bill is one of the techniques for the government to control online speech. As the Kathmandu Post reports, it curtails freedom of speech online and increases surveillance of personal data. Fundamental right to freedom of expression The Constitution of Nepal guarantees “freedom of opinion and expression” as a fundamental right under Article 17(2)(a). In addition to this, the proviso to Article 17(2) prescribes grounds under which such fundamental right can be reasonably restricted. There are six such grounds listed: (i) “the nationality, sovereignty, independence and indivisibility of Nepal”; (ii) “the harmonious relations between federal units and the relation subsisting among the people of various caste, ethnicity, religion, or communities”; (iii) public decency and morality; (iv) to prevent contempt of court; (v) “an act of defamation”; and (vi) “incite racial discrimination, or untouchability, or disrespects labour, or any act of defamation, or contempt of court, or an incitement of offence”. Restrictions Social Networks Chapter 14 of the Bill deals with provisions relating to Social Networks. Section 94(1) of the Bill, attempts to impose restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression in the social network. It provides…

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