While a host of political leaders have expressed concern over a government plan to bulldoze the proposed cybercrime bill through parliament they also threatened to block its way in the house.
Some lawmakers and rights activists believe the incumbent government is planning to curb freedom of expression particularly on social media to stave off criticism from different segments of society.
The stakeholders have chosen social media’s platform to express their anger at this move. They stated that the proposed legislation will have serious implications on online activities of individuals, civil liberties, researchers, internet, media, academicians, industry and businesses.
PTI chief Imran Khan’s official Facebook page says: “PML-N drafts a fascist bill to curb freedom of expression. It is shameful that the ruling party has chosen to draft a bill that will make it a criminal offence to criticise politics and politicians online.”
It also states that this is clearly the work of someone who has no respect for the basic individual liberties and can’t think beyond their own nose. Talk to your elected representatives, send a tweet to journalists and politicians, and show them that we are not a nation which will be censored like this.
There is more criticism in Urdu on the same post: “Like Punjab police, this legislation would also be used for political purposes so no one could dare to raise his voice against them [the rulers].”
PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan writes on his Facebook page, “Politically motivated #CyberLaw in its current form is totally unacceptable. We will not allow govt to curb human freedoms in the name of security.”
Another lawmaker of the same party, Dr Nafisa Shah, claimed that the government is on the wrong side and that legislation is being done in haste and without any due deliberations. She said her party would introduce amendments in consultation with all the stakeholders for transparent legislation on this subject.
Usama Khilji, rights activist, is campaigning against the legislation on social media. He writes, “The government …is giving itself sweeping powers to remove or block any content it deems unfit.”
Pakistan is already amongst the only three countries in the world with the most take-down requests submitted to Facebook, including ‘criticism of the state’. This is official information from Facebook on take-down requests from PTA and ministry of IT.
Trend on social media
Currently, after the passage the bill on cybercrime from a parliamentary panel, the trend #WeRejectCyberBill has become much popular on the microblogging site, Twitter.
Twitter handler @bhensaa terms this bill as “Cybercrime law is E martial law”. Pakistan Defence handle @defencepk tweeted, “#WeRejectCyberBill - Because legitimate criticsim of the govt is our basic right #CyberBill.”
A PML-N lawmaker MNA Maiza Hameed says in one of her tweets “The bill might not suit some ppl, but nowhere as oppressive as what they’re making it out to be #CyberBill.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2015.
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