Ministry issues stern social media use policy

  • Directive bars comments or posts against government
- BINOD GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Nov 3, 2018-

In yet another act of curbing individual freedom, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has endorsed a policy barring all staff and teachers from criticising the government and political parties or posting comments to that effect on social media.

The Social Media and Mobile Phone Use Directive, which came into effect on Wednesday, was endorsed by Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel. The directive is as an attempt to prevent publication of the government’s decisions before they are fully endorsed and to block negative comments on the government activities.

The directive applies to nearly 500,000 workers, including school and university teachers both from private and public institutions across the country. There are separate clauses guiding the use for official and private social media accounts.

The proposed law bars people working in the education sector from criticising the government, political parties, and their leadership either through their own comments, by sharing the posts of others or by liking them. They are allowed to publicise only the government’s final plans and policies and encouraged to comment positively on posts related to the government and the parties.

Officials told the Post that the directive was issued to control the “anarchy” on social media by people who fall under the jurisdiction of the ministry. “Those holding responsible positions must present themselves responsibly. However, many staffers were found to be making cheap comments,” said Baikuntha Aryal, spokesperson for the ministry.

Asked if the directive curtails individual freedom, Aryal said, “Barring someone from disseminating negativity doesn’t amount to breach of individual freedom.”

With the new directive coming into effect, officials under the ministry will have to receive prior permission before voicing comments or giving interviews to the media or publishing articles.Though the directive doesn’t elaborate on the penalty, it says those flouting the directives to an extreme level could be liable to punishment in line with the cyber laws.

The directive comes after the KP Sharma Oli administration was forced a month ago to withdraw the National Integrity Policy aimed at regulating non-government and civil society organisations. Observers had said the policy would severely impinge on the constitutional right to freedom of expression and association.

Two months ago the Home Ministry stopped former Maoist child soldier Lenin Bista from travelling to Thailand. The move was nationally criticised as the government’s attack on his freedom to move freely.

Civil society members say the new directives reflect the intention of the incumbent government, which is gradually taking an authoritarian path. “This totally contradicts with the universal principle of freedom of expression,” said Rameshwor Upadhyay, chairman of the Nepal University Teachers Association.

“Teachers and professors were allowed to criticise the government even during the Panchayat era. The present government beats the Panchayat system when it comes to curtailing personal freedom.”

Published: 03-11-2018 07:23

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