Hacking of news website tantamount to pre-censorship: Experts

Published On: April 3, 2020 08:42 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 3: The act of Asgar Ali, an information technology advisor to Prime Minister KP Oli, to make unauthorized access to and delete a news report by Kathmandupress.com, a capital-based online news portal, is tantamount to crime against the media, experts have said.

"Since the government cannot impose pre-censorship, any individual associated with the government, too, cannot do the same," advocate Rudra Nepal who is also the chairperson of the Progressive Lawyers' Association affiliated to the ruling Nepal Communist Party, told Republica.

Nepal also stated that the government could regulate the media on matters related to national sovereignty and territory of the nation as well as the other serious limitations imposed by the Constitution also by protecting freedom of speech.

The prime minister's IT advisor Ali has courted yet another controversy after he allegedly pressured Shiran Technologies Pvt Ltd, the developer of Kathmandupress.com, to remove a news item by Kathmandupress.com. The news report was about Ali's controversial role in importing medical equipment from China at exorbitantly high prices.

According to Article 19 of the Constitution, imposing pre-censorship on the media, seizure of printing machine or equipment as well as cancellation of license are illegal.

"Such an act by any individual or authority is illegal," said advocate Gyanendra Adhikari who is also a former central committee member of Nepal Bar Association. "The government should be ready to punish any individual if they are involved in such an illegal act," he added. The news portal, too, can seek legal action against the accused of such acts, demanding a six-month jail term for the accused or compensation according Sections 48, 57 and 58 of the Electronic Transaction Act, 2006 and suitable compensation as per Section 33 of the Press and Publication Act, 1992.

The private software firm run by Ali and his business partner Biswas Dhakal that is the developer of www.kathmandupress.com has been accused of secretly removing a news content from the website through an unauthorized access. Though, as the developer of the website, Shiran Technologies knew the password to the news site's admin, experts say that it is not authorized at all to access and delete a news report. It is a serious crime which is also against the professionalism of a software company, they add.

Republica earlier reported that Biswas Dhakal, president of F1Soft International Pvt Ltd, and Asgar Ali, founder and director of F1 Soft International, pressured Ujjwal Maharjan, CEO of Shiran Technologies Pvt Ltd, to illegally remove the news story from Kathmandupress.com. As a professional developer, Shiran has been working as the designer and developer of the news portal. F1 Soft International owns a number of companies, including eSewa and Shiran Technologies.

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