24 August 2010

Nepal Telecom Authority as Cyber Moral Police

By Harsha Man Maharjan
On 13 August 2010, Kantipur, Nepali broadsheet daily carried a reporting about cyber law. The reporting made public that Nepal Telecom Authority is planning to block all pornographic sites available in internet. And the authority will ask 41 ISP companies in Nepal to block these sites. The reporting says Electronic Transaction Act, 2063(2008) restricts ISP companies from operating pornographic sites but it has no provision of blocking these kinds of sites. What the reporting referred is article 47 of the act which says this:

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 One Hundred Thousand Rupees or with the imprisonment not
exceeding five years or with both.
(2) If any person commit an offence referred to in Sub-section (1)
time to time he/she shall be liable to the punishment for each time with one and
one half percent of the punishment of the previous punishment.
Now the authority is planning to put new provision, which requires ISP companies to block these sites, while issuing license.
Article 47 is highly ambiguous. It refers to “public morality” and “decent behavior “. The interpretations of these words vary with person to person. And the meanings of these words keep on changing as society changes.
I think Nepal Telecom Authority is taking this step in moral ground. It sees pornographic sites against “Nepali norms and values”. What Nepal Telecom Authority is trying to do is wrong. It is going for easy option which is controversial. It is trying to work as cyber moral police. Our society is changing. Meaning of obscenity is changing too.
Yes, we have to regulate the access of the porn sites from children. That means only adults must have access to these kinds of sites. Porn sites accessed by adults should not create problems to others. Banning porn sites curtails adult’s right to information.

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