ISLAMABAD: The government has issued a key policy directive to block all blasphemous and pornographic material on the internet by installing effective modern filtration system but ensuring that it does not affect the freedom of information, writes Ansar Abbasi.
Following the personal interest shown by the incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari, the Ministry of Information Technology has already issued necessary directions to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to update the system for effective monitoring and control of blasphemous and pornographic material.
Pervaiz Ashraf had initiated the move a few months back as minister for information technology and after having been shown extremely disturbing and provocative blasphemous material that is freely available to internet users in Pakistan because of non-availability of effective blocking system.
The policy directive, a copy of which is available with The News, has been drafted cautiously to ensure that the move does neither affect the freedom of information in any manner nor allows the authorities to misuse the facility beyond the mandated goal of blocking only blasphemous and pornographic material.
Having the subject “Policy directive for effective monitoring & control of obnoxious content (blasphemous & pornographic) over internet in Pakistan”, the policy directive reads: “The unchecked and free flow of blasphemous and pornographic content at mass level through internet in Pakistan is in direct friction with the basic principles of Islamic way of life as reflected in the Objectives Resolution as well as the articles 19 and 31 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Such obnoxious content also creates immense discomfort and dismay among the people of Pakistan besides shaking the very fabric of our socio-religious values. Furthermore, several petitions have also been filed in the superior judiciary whereby the courts have expressed their concerns over this and directed GoP to address these issues more effectively.
Therefore, it is imperative to have a sustainable solution to continuously monitor and control the display of blasphemous and pornographic content over internet in Pakistan without compromising the scope of article 19 of the constitution that guarantees right to freedom of speech and expression, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam etc.
“2. In view of the foregoing the federal government is pleased to issue the following directives for compliance by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA):
i. PTA to establish at the earliest a dedicated unit while allocating appropriate funds/budget and human resources, supported by the state of the art technical solutions and upgraded call centre, with the mandate to take requisite measures for proactively and independently blocking the websites displaying the blasphemous and pornographic content;
ii. It must be ensured that any system procured as per para 2 (i) does not interfere with the rights of the citizens as envisioned in the Objectives Resolution and articles 19 and 31of the Constitution of Pakistan or misused by anyone for political gains. The focus of this system shall remain ‘blasphemous and pornographic’ content;
iii. Concurrently, the Inter-Ministerial Committee already constituted for evaluation of websites will also continue its mandated work as per the ToRs.
“3. This policy directive is issued with the approval of minster for information technology for the implementation with immediate effect.”
According to sources, with the installation of new systems there would be no need to block the social media tools like Twitter and Facebook as only the targeted (pornographic and blasphemous) material would be blocked.