ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party has condemned what it calls digital dictatorship which the PTI government aims to impose through recently-announced rules.
“The Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules 2020 are unconstitutional, regressive, mala fide and violate Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan,” said Information Secretary of the PPP Parliamentarians Dr Nafisa Shah on Friday. She said in their content and implication, these rules seem to be a separate law which should have been referred to the parliament.
“Through these draconian provisions, the government claims for itself indiscriminate power to survey and monitor digital content and block individuals and social media companies that in its view do not comply with the rules,” she said, adding that these rules are therefore nothing but an instrument for the fascist government to muzzle the press, intimidate citizens and silence the opposition and are therefore unacceptable. She said it is ironic that the PTI “Tabdeeli government” whose own support came on the back of social media, and which has set new records of trolling and abusive content in the country is now set on blocking social media platforms and content, making a mockery of both the PTI goal of a “digital Pakistan” and the prime minister’s claim of “I am democracy”. She said the most egregious part is that the new provisions allow blocking any information which criticizes the government and holders of public office. This is censorship at its worst.
“Whistleblowers, journalists, opposition and even ordinary citizens now can be censored when sharing views critical of the government,” she said and added the rules further allow mass surveillance as they empower authorities to store all internet data of citizens so that they can access them without going through a legal process, again violating the constitutional guarantees of the privacy of citizens. “These rules will alienate digital media companies which will be forced to shut down,” she said. The PPP demands that the government immediately withdraw these unconstitutional rules and refer the matter of social media and internet regulation to the parliament, she concluded.