Advocacy group Bolo Bhi has strongly condemned Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) directives that curb the free flow of information to “protect those in the corridors of power”.
It has called on the authority to “stop violating the constitution and judicial orders through its acts of indiscriminate and ad hoc blocking of online content.”
In a recent order issued by the PTA, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had been ordered to block ‘scandalous content’ including “sensual conversations between two sitting parliamentarians.”
According to a report published in The News, PTA had issued directives to the ISPs for blocking “desired web links” and has emphasised on blocking footage of a press conference where a female TV anchor levels allegations against the “boss” of a TV channel and also a website that has an audio recording of a “sensual conversation” between two notable members of an opposition party.
Bolo Bhi states that the report makes it obvious that PTA continues to use morality, religion and national security as an excuse to block political and controversial content.
The Ministry of IT’s method of regulating online content is non-transparent and politically motivated, making it highly questionable and unconstitutional. By excluding civil society in decision-making, the Ministry of IT as well as the PTA have continued to block content based on what the state deems objectionable. This needs to stop. The PTA must respect the judicial stay order on blocking of content online.
Their demands are:
- The Ministry of IT and the State should stop using the PTA to curb free flow of information for the sake of protecting those in the corridors of power.
- The Ministry must include industry, civil society and academic representation in the inter ministerial committee responsible for making decisions regarding online content regulation.
- Both, the Ministry of IT and PTA, in issuing directives and having them implemented, should respect and uphold the right to information and make public the list of websites that have been blocked and unblock all such content as per the judicial order.
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