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Saturday April 13, 2024

Rights activists, civil society seek immediate unblocking of X

Popular social media platform X, which is an important source of information, remains inaccessible in Pakistan to millions of users for more than a month now

By News Desk
March 14, 2024
Screengrab shows X services down in Pakistan. — Geo Tv/File
Screengrab shows X services down in Pakistan. — Geo Tv/File

ISLAMABAD: Human rights activists and civil society organisations have sought immediate resumption of X, formerly Twitter, in a joint statement expressing profound concern over the increasing instances of internet shutdowns and social media platform blocking.

The popular social media platform X, which is an important source of information, remains inaccessible in Pakistan to millions of users for more than a month now, since its suspension ahead of the February 8 general election.

Besides a complete suspension of internet on the polling day, netizens have been facing sporadic disruptions and hindrances in accessing the social media platform despite different courts’ orders for the resumption and uninterrupted access to the masses.

Calling out the “arbitrary blocking of platforms”, the rights activists and civil society organisations have launched a campaign #InternetKholo to draw the new incumbent government’s attention towards the matter for restoration of X.

“These actions not only infringe upon the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to information but also set a troubling precedent of throttling genuine political discourse including plurality of voices in the country,” the statement read.

The statement also criticised Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for continuous silence and failure to furnish any reasons for its actions and exceeded its mandate to block an entire internet platform.

It said that the prolonged and unannounced disruption of X, was a sobering illustration of growing digital censorship in the country, which it also “undermines Pakistan’s international law commitments”.

“Such actions not only silence diverse political voices, but also create an environment which contributes to the spread of misinformation,” it added.

In light of these concerns, the civil society called for immediate action to reverse the course of digital censorship in Pakistan.

“We urge the incoming government, regulators and other public bodies to recognise that any action that affects the flow of information and limits citizen’s ability to express themselves, has a direct and lingering impact on citizen’s human rights including the right to political participation,” it added.

Last week, the Sindh High Court (SHC) expressed concerns over the ongoing inaccessibility to X, saying that prima facie social media platforms were being managed.

However, PTA disassociated itself with the current situation, stating in its response to the court that it had no role in suspending or slowing down social media platforms.