ISLAMABAD: Already restricted from making certain comments verbally in public, some government officers could soon receive a rude awakening on the impact of their anti-military and anti-judiciary posts on social media.
The Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) has decided to take disciplinary action against officials working for its various departments, including teachers, who have allegedly posted comments on their personal social media accounts which are against the judiciary and the armed forces.
“CADD has initiated disciplinary proceedings against all those civil servants who contributed or are contributing in negative propaganda against the judiciary and armed forces on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp,” read a post on the division’s official Facebook page.
The division has stated that it has received multiple complaints about civil servants sharing ‘propaganda posts’ during the elections on multiple social media platforms. Hence, the division has decided to start taking action against such officials.
“We have received multiple complaints about social media posts blaming the armed forces and the judiciary being allegedly involved in rigging. The posts called them [top military and judicial officers] names and using the term ‘agriculture department’ for the intelligence agencies,” said a CADD official aware of the matter but who requested not to be named.
The CADD subsequently decided to write to all of its attached departments to start taking action against officials who had posted such comments online. Such officials would be summoned to explain their position on the posts.
Should the officials fail to provide satisfactory answers, they could be prosecuted with FIRs registered against them under the cybercrime law, the official said.
The official, though, added that not all the posts which were reported to CADD were derogatory and some expressed certain sentiments which were seen to be in vogue.
CADD officials clarified that civil servants cannot be seen to be involved in political campaigning which is why action was being taken against them. Moreover, the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) of 2016 also asks to maintain the sanctity of the armed forces.
A CADD spokesperson said that if anybody has thrown mud on the armed force, then action will be taken against them. However, the spokesperson said that he was not aware of any such incident involving an employee of the division and that he could only confirm it after checking with the relevant officials.
After the CADD announced in a Facebook post that it would be taking action against officials, many employees of the division and its attached departments removed the posts to escape punishment.
The teaching and non-teaching staff, who work under CADD, have expressed concerns over the move.
Since many of the teachers employed by CADD had served as presiding officers and polling staff, they said that it could be an effort to stop them from sharing any information about any irregularities which may have taken place during the elections.
Curbs are colonial
“Curbs on civil servants are a very old and colonial way of working for the government,” said Usama Khiliji, director at digital advocacy organisation Bolo Bhi.
“To disallow civil servants from expressing their views on certain subjects, unless they are directly in conflict with their jobs or if it is an official secret, is a violation of their fundamental rights.”
He added that government servants are also human beings who have a right to their own opinions and to express them.
“As long as they are not inciting violence they should be allowed to express their view,” he said, adding, “Taking action against them for expressing views is a violation of fundamental right to freedom of expression under article 19 of the constitution.”
“If they are exposing negative aspects of the government that is in public interest I think its whistleblowing and they are allowed to do that.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2018.