Pakistan’s human rights review: Internet censorship comes under scrutiny

Published: November 3, 2012

Netherlands asks Islamabad to remove restrictions on internet access. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: As part of a review of Pakistan’s human rights standing, the Netherlands has recommended that Pakistan remove restrictions on internet access.

The recommendation is part of a draft report of the UN Human Rights Council working group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan.

In the draft report, released on November 2, the working group has listed this demand along with 163 other recommendations on the country’s rights record.

The video sharing site, YouTube, has been suspended in Pakistan since September 17, 2012.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered the ban over a blasphemous movie trailer that incited protests around the world.

It is the fourth time the site has been banned since 2008.

Second review

Pakistan presented its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report in the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, October 30. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar defended Pakistan’s progress since the last review in 2008. The Review, created in 2006, takes place every four years and is a state-driven process.

Pakistan will have to respond to the recommendations by March 2013 at the 22nd session of the Council. The response will then be included in the outcome report adopted by the Council in that session.

“It is a great opportunity as it is now part of UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations to the government and we can continue to build pressure on the government to do better on net freedom in the country,” said Shahzad Ahmad from Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan, a human rights organisation that focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social justice and development in the country.

Ahmad presented a shadow report along with two UN accredited international NGOs, Association for Progressive Communications and Freedom House.

“This is first time ever that a shadow report on internet rights in Pakistan was submitted and a UN member state picked it up and put it as a recommendation for the government to improve internet rights in the country,” he wrote to The Express Tribune in an email from Geneva.

Internet-based human rights

Netherlands made the recommendation that Pakistan “(r)emove restrictions on accessing internet in the country, which runs counter to the criteria of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and the principle of proportionality.”

Internet-based human right issues were not part of Pakistan’s first review in 2008. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the ICCPR in June 2010 and made Pakistan signatory to the law which commits it to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to a fair trial.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • M.Ahmer Ali
    Nov 3, 2012 - 12:02PM

    If this Netherlands’ statement “KARACHI: As part of a review of Pakistan’s human rights standing, the Netherlands has recommended that Pakistan remove restrictions on internet access” means that Pakistan has to eliminate restrictions on porn websites to be accessed easily then I shall only say this that Pakistan should never has to cerebrate about it even doing is so far and also should try to ban/restrict all the pornographic websites gradually…….

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  • Iqbal
    Nov 3, 2012 - 2:46PM

    And to think the masses in Pakistan think there are human rights violations elswhere in the subcontinent. Hypocrisy at its best.

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  • Feedom Seeker
    Nov 3, 2012 - 2:47PM
  • Iqbal
    Nov 3, 2012 - 3:58PM

    @Feedom Seeker:
    About time too. The Islamic world should now stop spending a fortune on places of worship and instead build world class universities and colleges. When I looked at the current World rankings of Universities there were only two universities in top 500 in Islamic nations.
    To get rid of militancy we should follow the philosophy of education, education, education. This report sums up the present mess in Pakistan:
    http://newsweekpakistan.com/the-take/364

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  • DevilHunterX
    Nov 3, 2012 - 4:26PM

    @M.Ahmer Ali:
    Please don’t breed. We have enough crazies in Pakistan already.

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  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Nov 3, 2012 - 4:48PM

    Internet censorship is the reason that no news outlet in Pakistan is reporting attack on Marvi Sirmed.

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  • Allah Ditta
    Nov 3, 2012 - 4:58PM

    Time to integrate with global community instead of living in a shell! World has become a GLOBAL VILLAGE. Please understand. Collapse of Berlin War has changed the World. After 9/11 we are in the eye of the storm & thanks to Musharraf who saved us from stone ages but it seems that we have a death wish to destroy ourselves.

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  • M Ali Khan
    Nov 3, 2012 - 5:20PM

    @M.Ahmer Ali:

    sweetheart, the people who watch porn will still watch porn regardless of what you or the govt says or does about it. banning something is always pointless, and banning porn in an already sexually-frustrated society like our’s shows it.

    blocking porn will NOT: reduce rapes, reduce child abuse, reduce STDs, reduce frustration, reduce tension.

    if you dont like porn, dont watch it. no one is FORCING you to!

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  • Haroon Rashid
    Nov 3, 2012 - 5:20PM

    Can we imagine the initiative/efforts/support from the Broadband Commission, Geneva to accessibility to Internet in Pakistan which resulted sub-marine cable access on SEAMEWE landing points at Hawks Bay, Karachi.
    With this negative report in circulation at the Human Rights Forum, it may likely hurt, or sabotage the efforts of one UN Agency to support spread of internet, by which we are providing internet to land locked countries in the region.
    Shortly there would be other options from sub-marine cable cost of internet going down.

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  • lovePak
    Nov 3, 2012 - 11:00PM

    Human Rights groups can say whatever they want. Most people I know in Pakistan are perfectly okay with the ban of specific websites which mainly include porn websites. People were okay with the Youtube ban but recently it’s started to get on the nerves. People outside Pakistan can say whatever they want, but the people inside Pakistan actually support this bit of censorship.

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  • KH
    Nov 4, 2012 - 10:09AM

    @lovePak:
    Cant agree more…

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