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    New Criminal Law Sparks Press Freedom Concerns in Nepal

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    Nepal has introduced changes to its criminal code introducing prison terms for the sharing of “confidential” information. The Media has expressed concern that the law could be subject to misuse by the authorities to silence critics.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): Nepal introduced a new change to its criminal code on Friday, making the sharing of information that's been deemed confidential by the authorities, a criminal offense in the country. The step by the KP Sharma Oli-led government has gathered a lot of flak from different quarters, especially the media. Journalists feel that the new law is a direct attack on the freedom of the press.

    "These general laws can be misused to silence journalists and discourage investigative reporting," Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) president Govinda Acharya was quoted as saying by the AFP.

    ​The new law makes anyone publishing private information, recording audio or taking pictures without permission criminally liable; they would be sent to jail for up to three years, fined or both. Similarly, publishing content that damages a person's reputation directly or through satire is also subject to similar punishment. 

    "Even a cartoon can be questioned by the police and the cartoonist can be prosecuted," senior journalist and writer Yubaraj Ghimire told Sputnik.

    The media have been warned in a way by the regime to abide by it and to be silent, he added.

    Other journalists took to Twitter to lambast the communist party—led regime.  

    ​Friday’s @KathmanduPost Editorial: The laws introduced in Nepal’s new Criminal Code are worded in such a way that they leave much room for interpretation and could be used to prosecute investigative reporters, journalists, and even cartoonists. https://t.co/QgLwubg31z

    ​"The situation is concerning for all professionals as it is for the media. The situation has arisen largely because of the silence and passive attitude of the media and civil society during the last few years of transition to the new constitution," Ghimire said.

    Earlier on Thursday, the Nepal Media Society (NMS), the umbrella organization of media houses warned that the provisions related to privacy and defamation posed a grave threat to press freedom and demanded a rollback.

    "Sections 293 to 308 of the Civil Code Act has dealt a blow to the press," Nepal Media Society (NMS) warned issuing a press release.

    "As per Section 293 of the act, no one shall be allowed to listen to the audio record of a conversation between two or more persons without permission of a competent authority or the persons involved in the conversation. This has violated the constitutional right to collect and publish or broadcast news," NMS said.

    Similarly, Section 294 of the act says that ‘no one shall disclose to anyone the secret or confidential information about any person that he/she came to know in the course of discharging his/her duties unless obliged by the law to do so, according to the Himalayan Times.

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    punishment, press freedom, law, journalists, opposition, Kathmandu, Nepal
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