Prominent Rights Group Slams Nepal's Proposed Bills As Threatening Freedom Of Expression

Prominent Rights Group Slams Nepal's Proposed Bills as Threatening Freedom of Expression

A prominent rights group has hit out against Nepal's proposed internet legislation and urged the government to avoid criminalizing the "peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression," the group said in a statement released Thursday

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 16th January, 2020) A prominent rights group has hit out against Nepal's proposed internet legislation and urged the government to avoid criminalizing the "peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression," the group said in a statement released Thursday.

The Nobel Peace prize laureate organization Amnesty International described the Information Technology Bill (IT Bill) and the Media Council Bill as part of a series of draft laws that seek to give the Nepalese government increased powers to dish out fines and prosecute perceived libel and slander in the media, online and in the public sphere.

According to Amnesty International, the draft bills are a step back for a country which served an example of freedom of expression in the region.

"Nepal was once envied by people across the region for its openness towards critical views and opinions.

That reputation is now at risk as the government continues to crack down on what people say, write and even sing. The IT Bill and all other legislation must be amended and brought into line with international law and standards to guarantee people's right to freedom of expression," South Asia Director at Amnesty International Biraj Patnaik said in the statement.

According to Patnaik, the bill risks creating a chilling effect of self-censorship which can stifle the culture of openness.

The Kathmandu Post reported that the Development and Technology Committee in Nepal's lower house of parliament in late December approved the IT Bill for a vote without any major changes.

Amnesty International expressed concern that the bills come with excessively heavy fines and threats of lengthy prison sentences some of which can see journalists sentenced for up to 15 years for libel.

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