PTA rules on unlawful online content not to harm businesses

Telecom regulator says rules will pave way for better investment opportunities for tech firms


Irshad Ansari December 11, 2020

ISLAMABAD:

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has stated that the ‘The Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2020’ would pave the way for better investment opportunities for tech companies, while remaining compliant with local laws.

The PTA said in a press release that the rules had been notified by the federal government, and dispelled the wrong impression about them, reiterating that in no sense these were aimed at harming the business environment in Pakistan.

“These Rules have been framed as a statutory requirement under Section 37(2) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA),” it said, adding that these were framed after a comprehensive consultation process by a consultation committee formed on the directions of the prime minister.

“During the process, key local and international stakeholders were invited in the interest of broad-based consultation, active engagement and open dialogue, including Asian Internet Coalition (AIC) and its members ie Google, Facebook, Twitter etc,” the press release said.

Besides, the press release added, the AIC members Facebook, Google and Twitter were also approached for consultation individually, as desired by the AIC. It added during a meeting on June 19, 2020, the committee and the AIC exchanged views on the AIC’s response on the consultation framework.

According to the PTA, Google and Facebook participated in the consultation process on 26th and 29th of June 2020, respectively. It added that AIC’s stance that meaningful consultation was not carried out “is misleading and against the facts”.

The regulator said that since timelines were to be followed by the committee for finalisation of its report based on the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order on September 12, 2019 and the federal government directions on February 28, 2020, the process could not be kept open-ended and prolonged, indefinitely.

“Therefore, after due consultation, the final report of the Committee was submitted to the Federal Government, considering all reasonable concerns and recommendations of stakeholders, remaining within the legal provisions and the tenets of the Constitution … and the PECA 2016,” it said.

“The right to freedom of speech and expression has duly been included in Chapter 2 of the Rules, in accordance with Article 19 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” it said. “PTA wishes to dispel prejudiced and wrong impression being created regarding the Rules,” it added.

The telecom sector regulator reiterated that “the Rules in no sense aim to harm the business environment in Pakistan rather would pave the way for better investment opportunities for tech companies while remaining compliant with local laws”.

The press release added: “PTA, as telecom sector regulator, shall continue to support all tech companies and stakeholders in realising digital transformation goals, within the bounds of the country’s laws and relevant rules.”

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