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Nepalese businessman's arrest over Facebook comment an attack on free expression

On June 1, 2014, the police arrested businessman Mohammad Abdul Rahman from Portaha of Saptari, a district in the southern plain of Nepal, over a comment he made on a Facebook post of a news story. He was arrested for reportedly violating the Electronic Transaction Act.

The police then filed a case with the district court in Saptari, which was later transferred to a Kathmandu court on June 19. The businessman was therefore brought to Kathmandu by the police.

In response to a journalist's Facebook post of a story entitled "Improving security in Saptari", on May 31 Rahman commented, "How can one say the security is improving when I had to pay Rs 50,000 to get back my looted motorcycle."

The Chairman of the Freedom Forum, Taranath Dahal, observes, "The comments by businessman Rahman do not consitute hate speech nor has he violated the existing laws. His arrest by the police is a sheer abuse of authority and a violation of citizens' right to express themselves freely. Such an incident suppresses freedom of expression which is an essential prerequisite of an effective democratic system."

A month earlier, the police arrested a government employee over a similar case, concerning a response to a Facebook post. Though the employee was brought to the capital city, he was released after some days.

Freedom Forum has been continuously objecting to the misuse of the Electronic Transaction Act because the government has used the Act as a tool to suppress people's right to freedom of expression and information sharing beyond what the original intention of the Act.

FF therefore condemns the arrest of Rahman and demands the authorities immediately release the businessman without any conditions and respect his right to freedom of expression.

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