Nepal: Facebooking Revolt and Censorship

Arab spring has brought  winds of change into Nepal. On Saturday, May 7, group of young people gathered near Maitighar area of capital Kathmandu demanding speedy resolution to the current deadlocke caused by delay in formulating new constitution. Inspired by a Facebook page Show up, Stand up, Speak up, they conducted peaceful protest and caused quite a stir among local media and politicians not used to citizen media inspired direct activism.

As this bold step by the youth gathered attention, some are criticizing it as a cosmetic move and elite activism which has failed to connect with the mass. “Facebook revolution” is also being called an elaborate hoax.

Unfortunately, in Nepal attempts to silence independent voices of dissent is nothing new. This wave of criticism against entirely non-political, citizen led and inspired movement just adds another chapter.

Over the weekend it became clear that Nepal’s citizen media too is under scrutiny after the Press Council-whose sole responsibility is to enforce media code of conduct and look out for “anti-social news” demanded answers from a hugely popular blog. Mysansar.com, had published series of posts critical of political-industrial complex in Nepal; particularly targeting the hugely influential Chaudhary Group.

Press Council Act of 1992 clearly limits the jurisdiction of the Council to traditional media outlets, yet they decided to act on vaguely worded complaint from Chaudhary Group which claimed defamation.

It is a clear that Nepali society still has a faction which is unable or unwilling to accept that citizens have a voice and they will not be silent. This group, accustomed to being lead by hereditary politicians and leaders far more adept in playing with the rules than listening to the people; find it unacceptable that bunch of young people are demanding that the new constitution be completed in Nepal. This mind set also pushes respectable and responsible institutions like the Press Council to go after a blog, while ignoring bigger issues plaguing journalism.

Just the right time to “Like” revolt in streets of Kathmandu!

Bhumika Ghimire, 2011. Previously shared at Global Voices Advocacy.

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