Nepali government wants to censor online videos
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Nepal’s government to immediately rescind a new decree that, on the pretext of “regulating” online videos, has the effect of preventing media outlets, journalists and ordinary citizens from posting video news reports on the Internet.
Under the decree, any media or individual must pay 500,000 Nepali rupees (3,720 euros) for a licence in order to be able to post videos online. In a country where the minimum monthly salary for a journalist is 25,000 rupees, creating an online media outlet will be impossibly expensive for ordinary citizens and journalists.
Proposed by the communications and information technology ministry and adopted by the cabinet on 3 March, the decree is an amendment to the ten “rules” issued under the 1993 National Broadcasting Regulations (NBR).
Under this 11th amendment, no person or entity can post a video online without first paying the required sum for a licence. This applies to any form of online video, including those on YouTube channels, which have many followers in Nepal.
In response to all the criticism of this 11th amendment, communications and information technology minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said the government was “trying to do a good job,” that it would “discuss certain ambiguities” with the various stakeholders and would “provide additional explanations.” But three weeks have gone by without any clarification.
“Charging exorbitant sums to just create an online video channel amounts to imposing a disguised form of censorship on Nepal’s media, independent journalists and all ordinary citizens,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s government to immediately rescind this amendment to the broadcasting law. As well as being legally questionable, it constitutes an outright attack on the right of Nepalese to obtain and disseminate independent information.”
Among other legal inconsistencies, this 11th amendment to the NBR law offers no clear definition of “online television.” According to article C (6) of the law, this designates “the act of producing and broadcasting audio-visual programmes regularly through the Internet.”
Furthermore, Babu Ram Aryal, a lawyer specialising in new technology, told RSF that “the executive has circumvented parliament’s sovereignty” by using a governmental decree to amend the law.
Aryal added: “It seems the current ruling coalition wanted to insert into these regulations the same provisions that the previous [K.P. Sharma Oli] government tried to impose in its information technology bill.”
Submitted to parliament in 2019, that bill reflected the previous Oli government’s desire to control the content disseminated by media outlets, as RSF pointed out. These criticisms were shared at the time by the then opposition coalition, which has been in power since July 2021.
Nepal is ranked 106th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.