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Understanding Edward Snowden in Nepal: Surveillance, Censorship and Online Freedom

Project Overview

A discussion between internet activists, lawyers and ISP executives to better understand and coordinate responses to the threats to online freedom in Nepal.

Identifying the Problem

There has been little debate in the Nepali media on issues of online freedom in the Nepali context, including the lack of legal guarantees of online rights or the government's past internet blackouts and content filtering. While there has been action to address these issues, in the forms of lawsuits and pressure from the ISP association, those involved in working to secure online freedom have rarely coordinated their efforts to create more effective pressure. When the actions of Edward Snowden reinvigorated the international debate on online surveillance and freedom, Roman believed it was the perfect time to organize an event focusing on online freedom in Nepal.

Creating A Solution

Roman organized a meeting that brought together several prominent actors in the world of online freedom, with the objective to share knowledge and coordinate their efforts. Many of those who attended the meeting were aware of past actions by the Nepali government that had not been reported or were not widely known. Additionally, many of them possessed credible information about upcoming attempts to regulate and monitor all internet traffic. The project facilitated building social connections between relevant legal experts, technical experts, civil activists and journalists who were all involved in securing online freedom in Nepal. Roman himself was shocked to learn of the frequency at which the Nepal Government forces ISPs to hand over internet usage data on individuals, with security services acting with no legal justification or oversight.

Prior to the actual meeting, Roman reached out to numerous organizations and individuals in order to build a large mailing list of those who were relevant and interested. A contact list was then created at the meeting, and has been circulated to allow participants to reach out to one other for any help or advice that might be needed. The meeting was an effective way for those within the online freedom movement to share their knowledge and ideas with one another and to make plans to collaborate on future projects. Roman plans to organize another meeting to discuss responses to an expected move by the government to begin monitoring all internet traffic in the country.

Lessons Learned

While one of the main objectives of this project was to give online freedom activists the chance to meet one another and plan for a more effective and collaborative approach towards their common goals, Roman was surprised to see that the level of cooperation between activists working in different fields was quite low, with no cohesive platform for coordinated action yet in place. For future projects, he will keep in mind how fragmented activists and NGOs are in Nepal, and will spend more time creating ways to build bridges across separate fields and organizations.

Funding

Roman did not raise any money for this project. The bulk of the necessary resources were generously donated to him by partner organizations. The Alliance for Social Dialogue donated refreshments and the Southasia Trust donated the seminar space.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2011

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