•      Fri Dec 1 2023

TikTok ban: People angry over government’s move, request to restore immediately

Kathmandu, Nov 14: A large section of Nepali society, including political party leaders have raised voice against the total ban of popular video sharing app TikTok. They have urged government to respect the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of free speech of the people and restore it immediately.

“It’s unbelievable. We never thought about the total ban. It’s sure that the present Prachanda-led government and so-called big parties were fearful on their inaction on every front,” says Mina Shrestha in X (formerly ‘Twitter’).

Even, common people think that the government’s claim of disrupting social harmony by TikTok is vague and unproven. Instead, people were sharing more critical voices over the inaction of leaders from big parties like Nepali Congress, CPN UML, CPN (Maoist Centre), CPN (Unified Socialist), among others.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda on Tuesday reiterated that the TikTok was disrupting the ‘social harmony’, and intruding the individual’s privacy. “We had a consensus among major political party leaders to shutting down TikTok immediately,” he said.

However, ruling Nepali Congress General Secretaries Gagan Kumar Thapa and Bishwo Prakash Sharma have criticised the government’s move. Both these youth leaders have requested the government to immediately reinstate the TikTok. They have argued that it’s a breach of constitutional fundamental rights of the people.

A party is not a private company : Gagan Thapa

In his post in Tweeter, Thapa has raised a question on political consensus to shutting down the TikTok. He has said, “The Prime Minister has said – ‘It has been decided to stop TikTok by sitting together with the ruling party and the opposition’. Which agreement? Where and when was the discussion with our party Nepali Congress? Where was the agreement? When, who made this agreement?”

He further says, “This is an agreement between you (PM) and not between the parties. A party is not a private company of the party leader. Therefore, we do not bear the burden of such decisions and agreements made by the party leaders, the party cannot bear it. We will continue to stand against curbing freedom of the people whenever there is an attack on freedom of expression.”

Meanwhile, another General Secretary Bishwo Prakash Sharma has also called the government to immediately restore the TikTok platform in the country. In a Tweet, Sharma has said that socio-religious tolerance will be protected by the self-discipline of the society and the governance of the government. He has further said, “By closing the source of the question, the right answer cannot be found.”

Likewise, advocate and founder of Internet Governance Institute Mr Baburam Aryal has pointed out that the shutting down of the TikTok app has raised serious issue of infringement of people’s fundamental rights. He has said, “By completely banning Tiktok, the government’s intention appears to be to block this important platform of communication and expression, limiting the opportunities of Nepalese citizens to engage in online conversations, share their views and participate in the global digital community. Moreover, such a ban appears to adversely affect the economic opportunities of content creators and small and medium enterprises, posing a serious risk to their business stability.”

He has further said, “The constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression is a cornerstone of any democratic society, reflecting the fundamental right of individuals to freely express their opinions and access information.”

Kathmandu Metropolis Mayor Balen Shah, President of Rastriya Swatantra Party(RSP) Mr Rabi Lamichhane, CPN UML General Secretary Shankar Pokhrel have also criticised the government’s move and hoped for restoration soon.

Rajendra Lingden, the President of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), has also criticised the shutting down the TikTok abruptly, instead of developing strong monitoring and regulating.

Meanwhile, a consortium of 22 civil society organization, including Freedom Forum, Digital Rights Nepal, INSEC, have issued a joint statement and urged the government to immediately restore TikTok. The statement reads, “We urge the government to reconsider this decision (banning TikTok) and find alternative measures to address legitimate concerns without violating the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression. If there is any illegal content on the TikTok platform that is contrary to the prevailing laws, we call on all concerned to seek remedies under the legal system and to ensure the responsible use of the platform under the international standards while protecting the democratic values imbibed by the constitution.”