Nepalese internet providers have begun blocking thousands of pornographic websites as part of a government directive aimed at stopping sexual violence, officials said Sunday.
The government issued new criminal and civil codes this year that include regulations against the use, broadcast and publication of pornographic materials with punishment for violators of up to one year in prison.
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Min Prasad Aryal of the Nepal Telecom Authority said Sunday that more than 25,000 websites have been blocked under the campaign.
“This is only the start, but a very good start,” Aryal said, adding that a team of officials are monitoring internet service providers to ensure the order is followed.
He said those providers who refuse or fail to comply face a fine of up to $4,200 and risk losing their operating license.
Internet service providers say they are complying with the government order but say it would be impossible to weed out and block all such sites.
“We are following the government order and have blocked the list of websites that was provided. However, it is not practical and technically not possible to block every pornographic website,” said Binay Bohra of Vianet Communications.
Bohra said they feared that with the new law service providers could easily be punished.
Media rights groups have also expressed concern at the blanket ban of websites.
“This opens up the path for the government to block any websites in the future, saying they have obscene content. This order was issued without clarifying what is obscene and why or without doing any proper study,” said Taranath Dahal, who heads the Freedom Forum, a Nepal-based media rights group.
Dahal said there should be clear regulations from the government on what content is considered obscene and pornographic and what aged users should be barred.
The government issued a similar ban in 2011, but this time there are more serious punishments for violations.