“What is this that you have posted?”
“Who gave you the right to put this up?”
“You think you can just write these things?”
Those were the kind of questions fired at me in an intimidating tone by Deputy Superintendent Pradin Tamrakar at the Cyber Bureau.
I told him politely to first take a look at my write-up in Factcheck Nepal about the increasing prevalence of fake news about the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project.
But the officer would not listen. He kept on badgering me: “Why run a news portal without registering it? Who gave you the right to post such content?”
“The Constitution,” I told him, this time more bluntly.
He called me “conceited” and threatened to detain me. Realising that I would not be able to get through him, I started making calls on my mobile.
He then tried to snatch my phone and confiscate it. He said I was not allowed to make a call.
“Why not?” I asked, and managed to hold on to my phone. I made my calls anyway.
Read more: Beware of fake news, Bhrikuti Rai
The day before this interlude, I had received a call from the Bureau asking me to pay them a visit to discuss a matter. I had recently written a blog post, about the increase in fake news and presumed they wanted to talk about it.
They told me to get to the Forensic Division by 4PM. But being on medication, I dozed off and was not able to make it.
The next morning I got a call again from the Bureau, this time they told me to meet Umesh Shah at the Forensic Division. I went over, and Shah took me to DSP Pradin Tamrakar who had a printout of my blog article about fake news on his desk.
Next thing I know I am being threatened with detention, and accused of spreading disinformation. What an irony: the writer of an article about fake news is being detained for propagating fake news.
I tried telling him to at least read the article first before accusing me, and then determine if I was propagating falsehoods, or trying to make people aware of it. But it was like talking to a stone wall.
The whole process was bizarre. Shouldn’t the interrogation officer at least be apprised of the case he is dealing with? Is threatening an innocent person and accusing them groundlessly how the Cyber Bureau conducts business?