24-year-old Comedian Pranesh Gautam was arrested for a thoughtcrime in Nepal for posting a satirical comment about a film on a social media platform Meme Nepal, triggering criticism of the KP Sharma Oli-led government.
The 24-year-old comedian was arrested last week under the Electronic Transaction Act on a complaint filed by filmmaker Milan Chamling after Gautam posted a satirical review of his movie ‘Birbikram-part two’ on his YouTube channel ‘Meme Nepal’, the Kathmandu Post reports.
Pranesh Gautam’s review was booked as a ‘cybercrime’ and under the Electronic Transactions Act. While there is a laundry list of grievances, Milan Cham’s team has publicly stated that it seeks to “teach a lesson to such miscreants”. It even demanded that the Meme Nepal brand be scrapped before any negotiation could occur.
The arrest of comedian Pranesh Gautam ironically came three days before Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s address to the Oxford Union in London where he spoke on the importance of democracy, freedom and human right.
Mohana Ansari, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, tweeted that while Oli’s speech celebrating freedom of speech was appreciated, “Nepali citizens want to see the same at homeland, too”.
The Oli administration has been criticized for attempting to push through a number of controversial bills, including a Media Council bill and an Information Technology Bill, that many says could be used to stifle criticism and squeeze the media.
“In his speech on Monday, Oli failed to mention that his government is bringing laws to control and suppress the media,” said Bishnu Nisthuri, former chairman of the Federation of Nepali Journalists.
The Federation of Nepalese Journalists is demanding that the government should withdraw the controversial Media Council Bill.
“The prime minister should respond through action, not words… It seems the only purpose of the media council bill is to control and punish the media that does not obey the government. The bill will curtail the freedom of expression,” said Krishna Pahadi, a noted human rights activist.
Police arrested Gautam on Friday and he has been sitting in a jail cell for the past four days waiting to see what will happen. His only crime: speaking his mind and trying to be funny on the Internet.
Pranesh Gautam’s arrest sent a strong message that in Nepal you can express your views as long as someone does not disagree.
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