In a hearing on Monday, the government of Pakistan has agreed to review new social media rules and will be taking consultation from all stakeholders. The hearing was for a petition by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists against the social media rules, which were introduced in November last year.
Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Rules 2020
The social media rules were to control the content being published online, under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. These new rules were introduced through the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful online Content Rules 2020. Under this rule, Pakistan’s Telecommunication Authority could remove or block access to any online content which may be considered against Islam, security, or public interests, while also being allowed to remove content that may be considered a violation of Pakistan’s Penal Code, or the Code of Criminal Procedure Act.
The PFUJ signed a petition to review the “social media” rules, as they felt that these rules were not fair, even Internet Service Providers immediately rejected the rules, as did many other stakeholders. The hearing today reassured the stakeholders that no major moves would be made without due consultation with the major stakeholders. Additionally, the AGP said that they will not be taking any drastic measures like blocking entire platforms or completely restricting content. These acts would be an infringement of article 19, and Article 19-A of the constitution of Pakistan, which gives people the right to freedom of speech and the Right to information. Justice Athar Minallah, also said that all relevant stakeholders will be consulted and that the government has agreed to review the rules.
Attorney General of Pakistan also asked stakeholders, like the PFUJ and Internet Service Providers, to review the rules with the Pakistan Telecom Authority. Justice Athar Minallah also encourage the AGP to present his recommendation to the stakeholders if they were ready to be reviewed.