Nepal’s Cyber Bill: Sharing Private Chats Now a Crime?

Nepal's new cybersecurity bill [Cyber Bill] proposes a ban on releasing private electronic communications publicly. This protects privacy but raises concerns about free speech and journalism. The bill allows legal exceptions and penalties for violations.

March 11, 22024, Nepal: Nepal’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology recently published a draft bill on information technology and cybersecurity that has raised concerns about privacy rights. A key provision of the bill proposes to ban the public release of any communication, conversation, or signal exchanged electronically between two or more people.

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology Nepal justifies this provision under the right to privacy. According to the draft, using any mechanical device to listen to or record private electronic communication is prohibited without permission from the individuals involved. This extends to making recordings public.

Sub-section (2) of Section 89 of the bill details these restrictions. It states that “no one shall use any mechanical device to listen to any communication or conversation or signal between any two or more persons by electronic means, except when a complaint is made by the persons concerned or an order has been made by an authorized officer following law,” Additionally, recording or making public recordings of such private communication is forbidden.

However, the bill clarifies that this restriction does not apply to public speeches or statements. Under existing legal procedures, it also allows for authorized electronic communication monitoring, recording, and public release.

Those who violate this provision could face a hefty fine of up to three lakh rupees (approximately $2,380) or imprisonment for up to three years, or both.

The draft bill has sparked debate, with some citizens and advocacy groups expressing concerns that it could stifle free speech and investigative journalism. The bill is still in its draft stage, and it remains to be seen if these concerns will be addressed before it is enacted into law.

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