Nepal Police’s move to arrest a 38-year-old man on the charge of creating and uploading indecent videos of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has thrown a spotlight again on laws regulating social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
The accused was arrested in eastern Nepal on July 22 after a formal complaint was registered against him.
The police have launched further investigations into the incident indicating that complaints against social media misuse are being taken seriously in the country. Calling it a “public security hazard”, as the police say, complaints of harassment, character assassination and financial crimes have shown an upward trend in recent times and that they have been forced to swing into action every month since Covid-19 lockdown started in April 2020.
And in the past year, between 2020 and 2021, internet users have grown significantly to nearly 11 million in Nepal, an increase of 5.5 percent new users during the period according to Datareportal’s recent statistics. While a Nepal Telecom Authority report cited by The Kathmandu Post says “internet penetration has crossed 90 percent of the population, and with over 65 percent mobile broadband users”.
Just last month, on June 14, two men, aged 26 and 52, were arrested on charges of circulating indecent photos and videos via Facebook Messenger. And a week later, another 20-year-old was arrested on charges of “creating fake accounts and misusing photos of Nepal Police and its officer on social networking site Clubhouse”.
According to Napoleoncat.com, there are over 10 million Facebook users in Nepal and most of them use Facebook Messenger, too. Their presence is growing on other networking sites such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok, too
As social media users in Nepal grow, Nepal Police’s Cyber Bureau is getting overwhelmed with the growing number of complaints by victims.
The Bureau’s spokesperson SSP Nabinda Aryal told Newschecker: “Since the pandemic started in April 2020, we have already lodged 129 criminal cases against the offenders. We lodged 50 cases last year and 79 this year. Most cases are under Section 47 of Electronic Transaction Act 2008.”
Most complaints received are about sexual harassment, circulation or uploading of pornographic materials, intimidations, fake accounts, threats and a variety of financial crimes.
In the past six months alone, the Cyber Bureau has lodged cases against at least six individuals involved in various acts of cyber-crime. To educate citizens about potential harm, the Cyber bureau urges social media users to behave responsibly and refrain from misusing various social networking sites.
What Laws Govern Social Media?
Although several laws deal with cases of libel, slander and defamation, most of the accused arrested in Nepal for online or social media abuses and violations — like the TikTok user arrested this week — are tried under Section 47 of the Electronic Transaction Act 2008.
It deals with issues related to the publication of illegal materials in electronic form.
Section 47 bans online publication or display of material “contrary to the public morality or decent behaviour, 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.”
If found guilty, the offender could face a fine of Rs 100,000 ($900), or five years jail sentence or both.
A repeat offender could face “one-and-a-half per cent more punishment of the previous punishment.”
In addition to this, there are other laws in Nepal which those who misuse social media can be charged under.
National Penal Code 2017
Offences against the President comes under the purview of the National Penal Code 2017 and are “dealt with under Offense Against the State”. The law’s Section 58 prohibits “intimidation of any kind over the President or Parliament”.
It says, “No person shall intimidate, whether by using any kind of force or not, show fear or terror to, or otherwise over the President or Parliament of Nepal with intent to prevent or restrain the President or Parliament of Nepal from performing any of the functions required to be performed under the constitution or law or compel the President or Parliament of Nepal to perform the functions in any specific manner.”
The Libel and Slander Act 2016
The Libel and Slander Act 2016 too, has provisions for penalties for “commission of libel or printing or carving any libellous matter.” Those found guilty under Section 5 of the Act could face a fine of up to Rs 5,000 ($450), or up to two year’s jail sentence.
While handling cases related to “public security hazard” Nepal Police also relies on Public Offences Act, but most cases related to social and online media misuses come under the purview of the Electronic Transaction Act 2008, according to SSP Nabinda Aryal, the Cyber Bureau spokesperson.
Nepal Law Commission: https://www.lawcommission.gov.np/en/archives/18459