The issual of arrest warrant in the name of photojournalist RK Adipt Giri on complaint of cybercrime over slanderous post against journalists of Parbat is yet another example of abuse of the Electronic Transactions Act 2008 to curtail freedom of expression.
Six journalists based in Kushma of Parbat had lodged the cybercrime complaint against Giri after he regularly made slanderous posts against the journalists of Parbat on the social media for a few days.
Giri had not named anyone in his posts but Chairman of the Parbat chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) Santosh Thapa, who is one of the complainants, claimed that Giri used obscene language while replying to a comment on one of his posts.
“He posted status, comments on the social media in a way violating dignity of all the journalists in Parbat which was unbearable for us,” Thapa told Setopati. “Do ask the police, not me, about the complaint.”
Chief of Parbat Police DSP Madhusudan Neupane said that the District Court, Parbat issued the arrest warrant after the police forwarded the complaint.
DSP Neupane told Setopati that Giri was not currently in Parbat and his mobile phone was switched off when the police tried to talk with him.
“Publication of illegal materials in electronic form: (1) If any person publishes or displays any material in the electronic media including computer, internet which are prohibited to publish or display by the prevailing law or which may be contrary to the public morality or decent behavior or any types of materials which may spread hate or jealousy against anyone or which may jeopardize the harmonious relations subsisting among the peoples of various castes, tribes and communities shall be liable to the punishment with the fine not exceeding Rs 100,000 or with the imprisonment not exceeding five years or with both,” states section 47 of Electronic Transactions Act 2008.
Questions have been raised about the cybercrime complaint over social media posts, the slanderous and offensive language of the posts notwithstanding.
Advocate Bhagawati Pahari has told Setopati that posting about issues of public concern on the social media is a matter of freedom of expression acknowledging that the words and language used in the posts were objectionable. “Questions can be asked even of journalists. But questions should be made in a civilized and dignified manner,” Pahari has stated. “Slapping cybercrime on anyone merely for criticizing someone, on the other hand, curtails press freedom and freedom of expression.”
She has pointed that the complaining journalists should have been careful that those in the government may use the same law against journalists for criticizing the government and raising questions.
FNJ Chairman Bipul Pokharel has stressed that the people’s right to raise questions about issues of public concern on the social media or any other forum is protected by freedom of expression. “Giri could have been brought to book for the language and words used by him through Libel and Slander Act or other laws. Taking action against that through cybercrime law is abuse of law,” he stated.
He has pointed at the trend of filing cybercrime complaints against journalists to keep them behind the bars for a long time even if there is no chance of proving cybercrime and added that complaint against Giri is continuity of that. He has warned that use of cybercrime law for raising any kinds of issues would ultimately lead to a closed society.
The Save Kali Gandaki Campaign, meanwhile, has called issue of arrest warrant against Giri an attempt to encourage exploitation of Kali Gandaki.
Pointing that the journalists in the district were not using their pen to stop exploitation of Kali Gandaki, they have added that Giri was speaking against the silence of the journalists.