CPJ concerned by climate for free expression in Nepal

New York, May 3, 2016 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today said it is alarmed by Nepal’s decision to expel Canadian social media user Robert Penner. Immigration authorities revoked Penner’s visa because of his social media posts, which are frequently critical of the government, according to press reports.

Most recently, Penner had criticized the arrest of Kanak Dixit, a journalist detained on corruption charges April 22 and released Monday by order of the Supreme Court, according to news reports. Penner had previously criticized Nepal’s 2015 constitution, and the government’s handling of violent ethnic protests, The Associated Press reported.

“A country where a resident’s visa can be revoked for critical tweets is not one where freedom of the press is likely to flourish,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Nepalese authorities must learn to tolerate criticism and public debate.”

Police detained Penner, who worked as a software engineer, on Monday and brought him to immigration authorities, who held him overnight, Penner wrote on Twitter. Immigration officials released him Tuesday after 26 hours in detention, cancelled his work visa, and gave him two days to leave the country, he wrote.

Home Ministry official Yadav Koirala told the AP that Penner’s visa had been cancelled because his posts on Twitter threatened national unity. “He was not abiding by our laws and was investigated for suspicious activities,” Koirala told the AP.

“Police were watching his activities for a long period,” Basu Dev Ghimire, director of Nepal’s Department of Immigration, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation “Police found him guilty.”