Cybercrime bill: Social activists voice concern over NA’s decision

Bill will give govt access to systems of internet users


Bill will give govt access to systems of internet users. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: Social activists in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have voiced concerns over the National Assembly’s decision to approve the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015.

According to a press release issued on Thursday, the bill was endorsed by the Senate and was referred to the assembly for approval regarding minor amendments that were undertaken by the standing committee of IT. The bill has now been sent to President Mamnoon Hussain for approval.

As per the statement, activists said it was imperative to prevent and respond to cyber and electronic crimes. However, many of them were concerned because the recommendations to bring the draft of the bill in the human rights framework were ignored by the government and legislative bodies at all stages.

“Through this bill, the government could force internet companies to remove or block access to any speech, sound, data, writing, image, or video without the court’s approval,” he added.

They maintained internet and telephone companies would be forced to keep tabs on their users for a year and give government officials access to their systems when served with a secret warrant.

“The decision to pass the bill is disappointing,” rights activist Qamar Naseem said. “The elected representatives have voted against the aspirations of the citizens and it would give the government legal powers to censor the internet, track internet users and hand over personal data to foreign powers.”

Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network member Taimur Kamal echoed these sentiments.

“The bill was drafted to combat cybercrime,” he said. “Instead, it gives authorities new powers over the internet and mobile phone systems and criminalise the everyday acts of innocent internet users.”

FATA Commission for Human Rights Zar Ali Khan said the bill posed a threat to human rights. He feared the law will curb freedom of expression in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2016.

 

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