Experts, researchers, and academicians stressed the need of information literacy to ensure internet freedom in a national conference organized by the Center for Media Research – Nepal on November 30, 2019, in Kathmandu.
The conference brought together activists, journalists, users and other stakeholders of the internet for a discourse on fundamental issues on freedom of the internet in Nepal.
Papers on internet governance, internet security, privacy, gender and internet, and digital journalism were presented at the conference.
Opening the conference, CMR-Nepal’s senior research fellow Ujjwal Acharya observed the increasing trends of undemocratic measures to control and regulate the internet and said that any solution to problems brought by the internet should be citizen-centric to ensure the upholding the freedoms and fundamental human rights.
In the session on the internet governance, advocate Santosh Sidgel said that Nepal lacked informed discourse in understanding the internet governance issues that have affected the conceptual clarity on different issues that surrounds the internet.
“Limited participation in the international processes of internet governance has further affected in understanding the internet governance in Nepal,” he said.
Romkant Pandey, the president of Internet Society of Nepal, commented on Sigdel’s presentation in the session chaired by Bhuwan KC, IPP of CMR-Nepal.
In the session on internet security, expert Sachin Thakuri said: “Lack of technical knowledge in the governing bodies and absence of collaboration with the private sector and authorities raised concerns about users’ data.”
“When there is breach in security, instead of taking responsibility, organizations often try to hide such issues from public and try to shift the blame elsewhere,” Thakuri added.
Internet Society Nepal’s vice-president Suraj Adhikari commented on the issue in the session chaired by CMR-Nepal’s Kanchan Adhikari.
President of Sancharika Samuha, Nitu Pandit, highlighted the need to take into account the technological domain through gender lens in the session on gender and the internet.
She said that the participation of women in using the new technology is low compared to males, but those negatively affected by the technology are mostly female.
Pandit also highlighted the challenges in using the internet by women which have been marred by personal attacks and sexiest comments rather than the quality of her opinions.
Advocate Pabitra Raut commented on the paper in the session chaired by General Secretary of Photojournalists’ Club of Nepal Shruti Shrestha.
Digital journalist and blogger Umesh Shrestha said that the internet has posed both challenges and opportunities to journalists in the session on digital journalism.
He said: “Fake news has not only posed threat to journalism but has also opened avenues to reinforce the role and responsibility of journalists and journalism to bring in truth and objective journalism to inform public.”
Lecturer at the Tribhuvan University Lekhanath Pandey commented on the issue and the session was chaired by CMR-Nepal’s Yam Bahadur Dura.
KP Dhungana, founding chair of the Online Journalists’ Association, talked about privacy on the internet.
Dhungana outlined that the issue of protecting privacy of individuals in the context of Nepal has been highly compromised by the use of social media.
Dhungana pointed out the issues of concerns with respect to data mining, laws about privacy, and its intricate issue with freedom of expression as major challenges.
Visiting lecturer of the Tribhuvan University Dr Sudhamshu Dahal commented on the paper in the session chaired by CMR-Nepal’s Sunita Karki.
Press Registrar of Province 3 Rewati Sapkota said that such discourse are important for the policy makers to ensure right policies in the areas related to the internet freedom and freedom of expression.
The conference was opened by CMR-Nepal chair Rishikesh Dahal who outlined the need of multi-stakeholder approach and need to bring together non-conventional actors to a common understanding of issues related to the internet freedom.
CMR-Nepal Executive Director Tilak Pathak said that over the last few years, the use of the internet as a means to freedom of expression has gained attention and prominence as people share their experiences and ideas.
“It has become an increasingly important tool through which democracy and human rights activists mobilize and advocate for political, social, and economic reform,” he said. “But restriction through laws and threats of prosecution have affected the media and individual platforms of self-expression.”
The conference was organized with support from LUSH Digital Fund.