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AG accepts formation of complaints council for online content – Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Attorney General has accepted proposal to form council to review unwanted social media content as there is currently no suitable forum to review social media feeds, parties said on Friday stakeholders.

AG Khalid Jawed Khan gave his consent by chairing a meeting with stakeholders and petitioners, who had challenged social media rules in Islamabad’s High Court, before assuring them that he would speak to Prime Minister Imran Khan and expressed hope that the rules could be amended in light of their suggestions.

Among other suggestions, stakeholders and petitioners proposed the formation of a council made up of representatives of journalists, civil society and digital rights activists to resolve social media complaints, modeled on the Council of Pakistan press which deals with complaints against print media content. and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Complaints Council, which deals with complaints against electronic media content.

The attorney general had recently assured the IHC during a hearing to challenge the 2020 rules for removing and blocking illegal online content (procedure, monitoring and guarantees) that he would meet with stakeholders and petitioners to examine the social media rules.

Ensures stakeholders to forward suggested changes to social media rules to the Premier

According to the petitioners, the rules had given the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) unlimited powers to take action against uploading content to social media. The rules were developed, according to the government, to enforce the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (Peca) against unwanted social media streams.

The petitioners, including the General Secretary of the Federal Union of Journalists of Pakistan (PFUJ), Nasir Zaidi, the Awami Workers Party, the Dawn Employees Union, journalist and presenter Amber Rahim Shamsi and a citizen, Mohammad Ashfaq Jatt, had argued that the rules were contrary to the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution. They believed that the rules would inevitably lead to a violation of the rights to life and to freedom of trade and profession, guaranteed to citizens by Articles 9 and 18 of the Constitution.

Representatives of journalists’ bodies said there was no proper forum, such as the PCP or the Pemras council, to examine complaints related to online content, instead the regulator had empowered the intelligence agency and government officials to check for unwanted content.

Lawyer Kashif Ali Malik proposed streamlining the decision and the challenge mechanism before the appropriate forum.

Lawyers for the Sikanadr branch Naeem Qazi and Haider Imtiaz scoured social media rules and recommended that the interpretation related to the glory of Islam and national security be reconsidered.

Ms Shamsi pointed out that the rules allow the regulator to keep a complainant confidential, even though it must be an individual right to know the name of an accuser.

AG Khan assured participants that he would speak to the PM, expressing hope that the rules would be changed taking into account input from petitioners as well as other stakeholders. He also said follow-up meetings would be held to refine the proposed changes to the social media rules.

Posted in Dawn, February 20, 2021

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