KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday directed the federal government, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to submit reports regarding the removal of defamatory content about Pakistani actresses from social media.
Renowned actresses Mehwish Hayat and Kubra Khan had approached the SHC over a scandalous campaign being run against them on social media due to insinuations made by a YouTuber.
Last year, YouTuber and retired army officer Adil Farooq Raja, who is based in the United Kingdom currently, levelled serious allegations against some actresses by mentioning their initials — S.A, K.K, M.H and H.K.
Netizens attached the initials to Mehwish, Kubra and Sajal Aly forcing them to respond to the allegations on social media.
At the outset of the hearing today, the court inquired about the progress in the removal of the said online content.
"[The court] had issued directives for the removal of content, has [the content] been removed," Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto asked.
The federal government, FIA and PTA officials submitted their replies on the pleas.
Government's lawyer maintained that Hayat's statement has been recorded while Khan's statement has yet to be recorded.
FIA cybercrime wing's investigation officer (IO) informed the court that the PTA has been asked to remove the content, which will be done soon.
He said that the FIA had launched the investigations after issuing the complaint numbers.
Meanwhile, PTA stated in its response that the content that the Authority could remove on its own has been removed, while authorities concerned had been requested for the removal of content which was uploaded from foreign territories.
Later, the court sought progress reports from the authorities and adjourned the hearing till February 24.
On January 11, the SHC ordered the relevant authorities to remove scandalous and defamatory content on social media against Hayat on her plea.
The court issued notices to the FIA and PTA, seeking a response from both parties within two weeks.
During the hearing, the petitioner's lawyer Khawaja Naveed said that a person named Adil Raja is levelling allegations against her.
Mehwish said that Raja had withdrawn his allegations against Kubra Khan.
"He has mentioned my name as M.H.," she told the court.
Earlier, Kubra filed a petition in the high court against Raja, saying that the YouTuber had made false allegations against four actresses of the media industry degrading them and causing an affront to their modesty and dignity by alleging that they were used by agencies to lure politicians into compromising positions at safe houses.
A counsel for the petitioner submitted that Raja, later on, uploaded another video where he clarified the issue and retracted from his earlier version. However, it had irreparably damaged actresses' reputations, including the petitioner, during the process on account of the contents uploaded on social media sites and cyberspace, added the counsel.
The counsel submitted that the act of the YouTuber was strictly cognisable under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA).
The court directed the FIA and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block such channels and handles involved in circulating defamatory campaigns against the actresses and remained vigilant in this regard.
A day earlier, while taking up Kubra's petition again, the SHC asked the starlet to cooperate with the inquiry being carried out by the FIA.
The FIA submitted a report on the campaign against the television actress, stating that the agency had started a probe into the matter.
The agency confirmed that it had forwarded the case to the PTA and provided the alleged YouTube, Instagram and Twitter accounts to the telecommunication authority's focal person.
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