UPDATE: Pranesh Gautam had been released from custody after 9 days, on 16 June, 2019. He still faces charges and must appear in court. There are still no news about his state and condition on the media. The below article had been written during the arrest. Thank you for signing the petition and for any support!
Nepal’s Prime Minister is on his Europe tour to prove that his country had progressed, yet back home the nation is boiling in extreme frustration from brutal human rights violations, arrests of innocent activists, artists and critics, in the atmosphere of suffocating freedom of speech, press freedom and freedom of expression.
UPDATE on 17 June, 2019: Pranesh Gautam released on Sunday, informed The Kathmandu Post. The below article had been written during the arrest, but its arguments are still valid. Thank you for signing the petition and for any support!
In the few recent weeks anti-corruption activist Gyanendra Shahi had been taken by police and brutally tortured without any reason, a young poet had been arrested for allegedly writing a book about extreme leftist ideas, and even a comedian is now under arrest because he dared to publish a sarcastic film critic on his Youtube Channel. Nepal is heading towards totalitarianism.
While Ram Bahadur Bomjon had been not even questioned or investigated after direct witnesses described how he and his followers lynched an old monk to death, a minor nun reported in 2018 being raped by him, and 5 other nuns and monks had disappeared, Nepal’s police is hyperactive in clamping down on just anyone who exercises freedom of expression and criticizes the current establishment’s appalling corruption scandals. The infamous and vaguely interpreted ETA (Electronic Transaction Act) (called “Cyber Crime”) is misused by the current establishment to arbitrary arrest innocent people, whose only crime was to publish a joke, click a “Like” on a Facebook comment or publicly criticize the well-known corruption in the land.
Today young supporters of comedian and Youtuber Pranesh Gautam went out to Kathmandu’s streets to demand the Government to free the comedian and film critic, after the police had extended his arrest by another two days:
Some o the reactions on the Twitter hashtag #freepranesgautam:
What is Pranesh Gautam’s crime?
Meme Nepal is a Youtube Channel where Pranesh Gautam and his friends attract hundreds of thousands of viewers to his very humorous comments on Nepal’s social life, especially from the entertainment area. Every totalitarian regime motivates people to find ways to ventilate their frustration indirectly, usually through arts and humor. The humor of Nepalis had become much more sophisticated and intelligent in the last 8 years, and I must say that I had had a really good laugh when watching the “criminal” Youtube comment about a new film release called Bir Bikram 2 (supposedly a “must see” second part of a supposedly big hit Bir Bikram 1, in the style of Rambo series 1, 2 etc., yet one part of the joke is that Bir Bikram 1 never came out, as Meme Nepal shares).
The Nepalese film industry is largely copying its Indian sister in Bollywood, and thus it is even called Kollywood (“K” for Kathmandu). Similarly but, as in India, only the very rich and influential people can afford to make big-budget films. Yet, as we all know, big money is not always guarantee of big talent. What the comical film critic wanted to emphasize i his sarcastic Youtube post, was simply that Bir Bikram was an average film, a near-copy of another famous film, and not bringing anything new. A really funny part or Pranesh Gautam’s video describes the over-emphasized and boringly repeated drone-shots of a village in Bir Bikram 2, saying “thank you for making us very clear that you CAN AFFORD to use drones, in contrary to for example me, who cannot…”. Or in a funny way he “replays” the overly load volume of the film by shouting with his friends…
Abhimanyu Dixit in The Kathmandu Post clearly agrees with the young amateur film-critics opinions about Bir Bikram 2, and calls the film “sexist, poorly plotted and including cridelt drwan characters”.
“In Bir Bikram 2, directed by Milam Chams, the excessive amount of drone shots or characters who are unnecessarily loud (read: screaming) add nothing to the movie. In fact, Gautam was being generous, comparing the film to the Indian classic Sholay (1975), even though the latter was a much better film.” writes Dixit.
Pranesh Gautam’s criticism is full of light and innocent sarcasm, but without any offense or any vulgarity. Yet the film producer of Bir Bikram 2 demanded the arrest without warning of the 25 year old comic, as well as the immediate deletion of Meme Nepal’s video. Similarly as it was the case of another such censured video, Lutna sake lut, which in a funny song form is criticizing the widespread corruption in Nepal, the effect was opposite. Although the original video was deleted, people had saved it and re-published on Youtube again:
(I am working on translating the video, please follow this page and my मारीचि हल्खोरियम Youtube Channel for updates)
“Gautam was taken into custody under the Electronic Transaction Act after filmmaker Milan Chams filed a police complaint last month for a video on Meme Nepal, a popular Facebook page, reviewing Chams’ recent film, Bir Bikram 2.” The Kathmandu Post had written.
On 11 June, 2019 many artists and comedians had protested on Maithighar Mandala against the arrest of Pranesh Gautam. “It is totally outrageous and disappointing to see artists treated this way in a democratic country like ours,” said theater artist and filmmaker Utpal Jha, who was among the protesters gathered at Maitighar Mandala.” The Kathmandu Post
Police in Nepal, if they do not directly torture him, like they did to Gyanendra Shahi in recent days, mentally torture him and mock him. “Pranesh has been trying to put on a strong face but he looks weak and broken,” Comedian Aayush Shrestha said. “He told me the police at Teku had made him sing and crack jokes for them.” (The Kathmandu Post)
It is not just a personal vendetta, misusing the vague Electronic Transaction Act. It is about basic rights (included in Nepal’s “Samidan”, the Constitution), to have the right for open expression and freedom of speech. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli claims in Europe now, visiting Switzerland, France and the UK, that Nepal had made big steps towards human rights and resolving the human rights issues of the past, but all that is rather a rhetoric than something based on reality.
Please sign the petition for Pranesh Gautam’s release: http://chng.it/nRgvdrGpG4
CORRUPT AND PASSIVE WHEN IT COMES TO REAL CRIMES, OVERACTING AND BRUTAL WHEN IT COMES TO THE POLITICS OF SUPPRESSION
There is a growing dissatisfaction among Nepalis with the police which is used as a puppet of the Government, politicians and the rich and powerful, and not as an independent body to protect the citizens from crime. Police is more and more misused as a kind of “private security agency” to be sent against anyone whom someone rich and influential simply wishes to silence.
In the same time, those who raped and murdered 13-years old Nirmala Pant had been still not brought to justice, because, as Nepalis explained to me during the all-country demonstration, one of the two culprits is the son of a local policeman, and the other is the son of a local mayor… The police investigation had been trying to destroy evidence instead of securing it, and it came out to the public. The police even tried to falsely accuse an innocent mentally compromised man, a traditional practice how to satisfy the public and hide the real criminals. The more big speeches the Government issued about surely finding the rapists and murderers, the more it is sure that they get away with it and they try the case to get forgotten.
Then Bomjon’s long hidden criminal cases shed light after one by one the victims’ families had been encouraged to speak out, when Ganga Maya Moktan revealed being raped by Ram Bomjon from her 14 year. Yet again, police had refused to register her police report and had to close all the independent police reports from families of disappeared nuns and monks of Bomjon, on the order of the Government, after Bomjon’s organization demanded impunity for him through Pushpa Kamal Dahal, former Prime Minister and current leading party leader.
Even if some honest police investigators seemed to have interest to continue to find evidence, the Government did not allow them to continue with Bomjon’s crimes investigation, and left Bomjon’s more than 72 victims of rapes, violence and family members of the disappeared and murdered by him, without the right for justice! (I always wrote and spoke about 40+ victims, because it was my guess. Today I sat down and counted us, head-by-head, and we are minimally 72 people already, who did not get justice after kidnapped, tortured, beaten and and/or raped, some of us even murdered by Bomjon and his gang! Not a small number for the police and Government to stay passive!)
One of those victims was me, an European, and the same Government’s Prime Minister, which did not enable me get justice after Bomjon held me 3 months and tortured, is now visiting my own country and claiming that Nepal is a country of human rights, justice and law!
Image above: Top Of the World Comedy
INNOCENTS ARRESTED, CRIMINALS CELEBRATED!
Yesterday 10 Nepali film associations released a joint press release, expressing their solidarity with the filmmaker and labelled the Meme Nepal video an “injustice.”
“The film industry recognises individual freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution to a citizen,” the statement reads. “But using that freedom as a garb to publicly attack a person’s character, and misusing these platforms for self-interest and in pursuit of financial gains is condemnable.” The Kathmandu Post
Pranesh Gautam is an innocent young comedian, who mistakenly thought he had been born in a democratic country, where arts and humor is not forbidden. But now he is in jail, and had said good-bye to his parents and girlfriend, and is broken. He is not a fighter, not any activist, he is a fragile young boy.
There could be civilized ways to tell him that his critical Youtube video was offending. In the West (and yes, even in that Europe where the Nepali Prime Minister is now!) such things are not solved by immediate arresting and jail! Arresting and jail should be applied only against criminals who had done serious crimes like rape, murder or big robbery. Is there not a single lawyer or human rights activist in Nepal, who can warn the Government that this is not democracy? Artists and poets, mere critics, who did not physically endanger or harm any human being and any property, should be called to attend police confrontations and courts, and not arrested like criminals!
In the same time, if a real criminal, against whom there had been dozens of police complaints over the last 12 years, whose followers openly admitted killing his sister, whose victims openly described him raping, breaking bones, torturing chained women, witnesses described the tortured and murders by him – such a criminal should be arrested and his ashrams emptied by immediate Government order, and the disappeared victims found dead or alive! This criminal is Ram Bahadur Bomjon.
Nepal should focus on REAL crimes and leave the young poets, youtubers, facebookers and anti-corruption critics freedom of speech and expression!
PLEASE HELP NEPALIS TO RELEASE PRANESH GAUTAM!
Milan Chams (Milan Chamling Rai), the producer of Bir Bikram 2 (right):
Source: Filmy Khabar
I take the liberty to fully cite the last paragraph in the latest article about Pranesh Gautam’s arrest in the Kathmandu Post, because it simply says all:
“There are primarily two issues here. One, the misuse of the Electronic Transaction Act when separate laws for libel and defamation exist. This Act has been used numerous times in the past to arrest journalists, comedians and satirists on trumped-up charges. The vague provisions of the Act, especially Article 47, have allowed it to be applied to situations that it was never meant to address. Second, Gautam was well within his rights to review creative work. Impertinent language and crass humour are no grounds to arrest someone. The manner in which Gautam has been treated, using incarceration as a form of humiliation and torture, is despicable. In the short-term, Gautam must be immediately released, and in the longer term, the Electronic Transaction Act itself must be rethought and amended.”
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