The federal authorities has lastly agreed to assessment its new social media coverage – Removing and Blocking of Illegal On-line Content material (Process, Oversight and Safeguards) Guidelines 2020 – launched in November final 12 months amid protest by numerous stakeholders.
Lawyer Basic for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan on Monday advised an Islamabad Excessive Court docket (IHC) bench that the federal government will revisit the foundations in session with the stakeholders in addition to the petitioners, who challenged the foundations.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah famous that Article-19 (Freedom of Speech) and Article-19A (Proper to Data) are associated to human rights. “It seems that the government while framing the new rules did not consult with the relevant stakeholders,” he stated.
The state’s high legislation officer stated banning a social media platform isn’t an answer.
“We request that the court may give the government some time so that it may review the rules in consultation with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the petitioners and the relevant stakeholders,” Khalid Javed Khan stated.
The court docket welcomed the AGP’s response and declared it “very positive”. “Consultation is necessary. If the government is ready to review the rules then the petitioners and stakeholders must submit proposals to it in this regard,” Justice Minallah stated.
Considered one of counsels for the petitioners, Usama Khawar stated they’d earlier introduced their proposals to the PTA however the telecom and social media regulator didn’t think about any of them. Justice Minallah requested him to place confidence in the federal government and count on a optimistic consequence.
The court docket later adjourned listening to of the case until February 26.
The brand new guidelines – framed beneath the Prevention of Digital Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) and launched on November 19, 2020 – positioned all of the web service suppliers (ISPs) on a par with social media corporations and utilized all the necessities of the social media platforms to the ISPs as effectively.
Underneath the brand new guidelines, a nationwide coordinator was to be appointed to coordinate with the stakeholders for regulating on-line techniques.
It required the social media corporations to instantly take away, droop or disable entry to any on-line content material in contravention of Peca, or another legislation, rule, regulation or instruction of the coordinator.
The Asia Web Coalition (AIC) – together with tech giants like Fb, Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and others – was fast to sentence approval of the foundations.
“The AIC and its member companies are alarmed by the scope of Pakistan’s new law targeting internet companies, as well as the government’s opaque process by which these rules were developed,” the coalition stated in an announcement launched on November 20.
Whereas various organizations expressed concern over the brand new guidelines, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) – the nation’s prime physique of journalists – on December 17 strikes the IHC towards the foundations and urged the court docket to declare them “null and void”.
The petitioner claimed that the foundations are “inconsistent with and in derogation of the fundamental rights” as enshrined within the Structure and are “ultra vires, as the scope of these rules goes beyond the legal mandate given to the respondents’ under the parent acts”.
The PFUJ claimed that the PTA and the federal government had “embarked on an illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional exercise of interpretation of constitutional provisions”. It referred to Part 37 of Peca and numerous guidelines to spotlight authorized and human rights issues.
It additionally referred to the criticism by journalistic, authorized and digital rights communities and stated the foundations are “being seen as a tool for arbitrary and excessive censorship in online spaces and an attempt to stifle criticism and dissent on online platforms”.
The petitioner additionally challenged the validity of “over-broad and arbitrary” definitions and famous that these definitions would finally create “legal liabilities not only for companies but also individuals who may work for such companies”.
It additionally quoted the AIC’s statements that highlighted the “potentially adverse impact” that the foundations may need on Pakistan’s digital financial system.
“[The rules will] inevitably have an adverse effect on the growth of the digital economy in Pakistan, as it will lead to imposition of illegal, unreasonable, exorbitant and cumbersome obligations on online platforms, social media companies and internet users,” it acknowledged.