Civil Society voices concern on continued internet shutdowns & social media platform blocking in Pakistan

NationalCivil Society voices concern on continued internet shutdowns & social media platform...

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Human Rights Activists and Civil Society Organisations have expressed profound concern over the increasing instances of internet shutdowns and social media platform blocking, specifically in the lead up to and following the general elections in Pakistan.

In a statement, they maintained that these actions not only infringe upon the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to information but also set a troubling precedent of throttling genuine political discourse in the Country.

   

They noted that the arbitrary blocking of platforms including the prolonged and unannounced disruption of “X” (formerly known as Twitter), is a sobering illustration of growing digital censorship in the Country.

“Such actions not only silence diverse political voices, but also create an environment which contributes to the spread of misinformation. Today, digital platforms play a pivotal role in shaping public discourse, and ensuring the free flow of information, through these digital mediums, is imperative for an informed society and fair electoral processes. The suppression of digital platforms, especially when initiated without transparency, often lacks adherence to due legal process and thus, undermines Pakistan’s international law commitments,” they said.

They said that the complete silence of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is extremely alarming as they have failed to furnish any reasons for its actions and exceeded its mandate to block an entire internet platform.

They added that the absence of transparency in the decision-making processes surrounding network shutdowns and platform blocking and complete disregard for any accountability has resulted in an obvious erosion of trust between the state and its citizens.

“We are also dismayed by reports of throttling of VPNs, undermining people’s access to information and right to privacy,” they said.

In light of these concerns, they Civil Society Organizations called for immediate action to reverse the course of digital censorship in Pakistan. Specifically, they urged the government and public bodies to;

– Repeal sections of the law such as Section 37 of PECA that enable censorship and violate Article 19 right to freedom of speech and press freedom and Article 19-A right of access to information

– Act with transparency on decisions that impact the free use of the internet including for political and economic purposes.

– Issue statement of clarification, outlining the reasons and legal basis for the recent blocking of “X” and other affected platforms.

– Avoid future actions that obstruct the free flow of information and adversely affect political discourse within the Countries and take back all legislative proposals expanding control and censorship over the internet including the e-safety bill from the previous government’s tenure should not be revived.

– Abide by Pakistan’s commitments to uphold freedom of expression and right to access to information under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Human Rights Activists and Civil Society Organisations urged the newly arrived government, regulators and other public bodies to recognise that any action that affects the flow of information and limits citizen’s ability to express themselves, has a direct and lingering impact on citizen’s human rights including the right to political participation.

Signatories:
Organisations
  1. AGHS
  2. Bolo Bhi
  3. Media Matters for Democracy
  4. Digital Rights Foundation
  5. Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development
  6. Human Rights Watch
  7. Freedom Network
  8. Pakistan Press Foundation
  9. Bytes for All
  10. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Individuals
  1. Muhammad Aftab Alam, Advocate
  2. Iqbal Khattak, veteran journalist
  3. Adnan Rehmat, media analyst
  4. Shafique Chaudhry, Executive Director, Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR)
  5. Haroon Baloch, Media & Digital Rights Expert
  6. Usama Khilji, Digital Rights Activist, Director Bolo Bhi
  7. Munizae Jahangir, Journalist, Editor-in-Chief Voicepk & Co-chair HRCP
  8. Imdad Khoso Journalist & Council Member HRCP
  9. Salima Hashmi – Council Member HRCP- Artist, Educator, Writer
  10. Zohra Yusuf, Council Member, HRCP
Mati
Mati
Mati-Ullah is the Online Editor For DND. He is the real man to handle the team around the Country and get news from them and provide to you instantly.

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