New York, April 15, 2019--The Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities in Nepal to not pursue charges under the country's cybercrime act against Arjun Giri, the editor of the weekly Tandav News, who was briefly detained today.
Police detained Giri in Pokhara and escorted him to Kathmandu so the Central Investigation Bureau could investigate, after a businessman whom Giri reported on filed a complaint under the cybercrime act, according to news reports.
The complaint relates to an April 5 article written and published by Giri that alleged financial fraud, according to the reports. The article was about Bipendra Raj Batas, who is part of a Nepalese auto company, Batas, according to the reports. The complaint alleged that the report was written in an unregistered paper, according to the Nepalese news website Setopati. Giri told Setopati that his paper and website are correctly registered.
CPJ sent an email late today to the Batas company requesting comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
"Nepalese authorities should not allow the cybercrime act to be used as a tool to silence critical journalists," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "Authorities should drop the investigation against Arjun Giri and allow him to continue reporting freely."
Giri was released overnight on condition that he present himself to authorities tomorrow morning, a spokesperson for the Federation of Nepalese Journalists told CPJ. If convicted, Giri could face a fine of 100,000 rupees (US$900) and up to five years in prison, under clause 47 of the Electronic Transaction Act for "publication of illegal materials in electronic format."
Nepal's Central Investigation Bureau did not immediately respond to CPJ's email requesting comment.