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PTA informs SHC it has no powers to remove online defamatory content

January 27, 2023

KARACHI: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has no jurisdiction to take cognisance of the matter with regard to removal or blocking of defamatory content in the light of court judgment, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday.

Filing comments on petitions of television and film actresses Rabia Iqbal, also known as Kubra Khan, and Mehwish Hayat against scandalous and defamatory campaign against them and other TV actresses on social media, a PTA director submitted that the Islamabad High Court had struck down the power of the PTA under the Section 20 of the Prevention of

Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) with regard to removal of defamatory content.

The PTA submitted that if the universal resource locator (URL) was hosted on a secured platform, then administration of the website application concerned was approached to remove the unlawful content. The authority requested the SHC to either issue specific direction to social media platforms for removal of the reported content or ask the petitioner ask to take up the matter directly with the social media platforms for redress of their grievances.

Regarding direction of the court, the PTA submitted that 42 links pertaining to the issue of Kubra had been processed, under which nine links/URLs had been blocked, 11 links had already been removed by the users and 17 links had no objectionable content, hence the petitioner may be advised to identify the particular content.

The PTA said it was pursing the matter with social media platforms for removal of contents from three URLs.On matter of Mehwish, the PTA submitted that 75 links pertaining to her case had been processed for blocking under which three links/URLs had been blocked, five links had

already been removed by the users and 18 links had no objectionable content, hence the petitioner may be advised to identify the particular content.

The PTA said it was pursing the matter with social media platforms for removal of contents from remaining 49 URLs.FIA Sub-Inspector Komal Anwar submitted that an inquiry had been registered at the FIA Cybercrime Circle and all relevant social media accounts were provided to the focal person of the PTA. She said the FIA Cybercrime Circle had not received any complaint lodged by the petitioner and she may asked to lodge a complaint directly to the FIA.

Mehwish and Kubra had submitted in their petitions that a YouTuber who claimed himself as a rights activist and former army officer had made false allegations against four actresses of the media industry causing an affront to their modesty and dignity by alleging that they were used by intelligence agencies and establishment to lure politicians into compromising positions at safe houses.

The petitioners’ counsel had submitted that YouTuber Adil Farooq Raja later on uploaded another video where he clarified the issue and retracted from earlier version but during the process, it irreparably damaged the reputation of the actresses on account of the contents uploaded on social media sites and cyberspace.

The counsel submitted that the act of the YouTuber was cognisable under Peca 2016 and the PTA was the designated agency to check such illegalities and pass orders to stop such transmissions and ensure removal of such content.

The SHC was requested to direct the PTA and FIA to take immediate action against perpetrators of the law.A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto after taking reports of the PTA and FIA on record directed the remaining respondents to file their

respective comments and in the meantime directed the FIA and PTA to take immediate steps for discharging their duties under Peca and pass appropriate order on the petitioners’ applications.