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Nepalese journalist detained for 10 days for Facebook post

This statement was originally published on nepalpressfreedom.org on 17 May 2016.

Journalist Manoj Kumar Rai, editor of the Gaunle monthly, has been detained for ten days in Kathmandu for sharing on Facebook investigative articles and a booklet he wrote on a religious guru. The monthly is published in Kathmandu. Rai hails from Solukhumbu, a mountainous district in eastern Nepal.

Senior Superintendent of Police Bikram Thapa confirmed that Rai was arrested in Kathmandu and an investigation was underway under the Electronic Transaction Act-2008, because the news and the book he wrote on the religious guru were shared on a social networking site such as Facebook.

Similarly, Sub-Inspector of Police at Metropolitan Police Premise, Teku, Ram Krishna Pathak, said a complaint was filed against the journalist Rai by various persons, including Henkhama Hankhim and Prem Kumar Rai, accusing the journalist of "blemishing the religious guru".

On 18 May 2016, Freedom Forum's Media Monitoring team visited the detained journalist at the Metropolitan Police Range, in Teku. During the conversation, Rai said, "I had to release my booklet at a small gathering of friends after I received a lot of pressure to postpone the scheduled book release program at the Nepal Academy. I released it on 8 May 2016. Immediately after that I was called by the Kathmandu police and kept in detention, as a complaint was lodged against me."

"I'm not discouraged at all. I am learning how the laws are obstructing citizens' right to free expression," Rai said behind bars, adding that his detention period was due to expire on Wednesday 18 May and he was hopeful for a positive decision from the court.

In his booklet, Rai explained, he had argued that an individual named Bhakta Bahadur Rai from Udayapur district was conducting phony activities in the name of a religious guru. Rai's book is entitled Fraud Omnand (God Angel).

Freedom Forum vehemently condemns the incident, for no one should be arrested merely for exercising their freedom of expression. Rai's detention under the Electronic Transaction Act is the latest example of how the use of the ETA is criminalising freedom of expression online. The invocation of the ETA to arrest the journalist grossly violates press freedom.

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