The government is all set to open formal broad-based consultation on the controversial “Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020”, following massive backlash from different segments of society, foreign social media companies as well as the United States.
Approved by the federal cabinet on January 28, 2020, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication notified the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, to ensure prevention of online content related to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security. However, after facing severe criticism the government suspended the rules and decided to hold consultation with all stakeholders.
A committee was constituted to start consultation process on the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 comprising on Amir Azeem Bajwa, chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (convener), Eazaz Aslam Dar, additional secretary of Ministry of IT and Telecom, Tania Aidrus, member of Strategic Reforms Implementation Unit, Prime Minister’s Office, Islamabad, and Dr Arslan Khalid, focal person to the prime minister on digital media, Prime Minister’s Office, Islamabad.
The consultation committee has convened a meeting of different stakeholders on June 4, 2020 for formal consultation on Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020. The invitation stated that the meeting has been convened in response to concerns expressed by Digital Rights Forums over the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020.
Government of Pakistan and Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) is a strong proponent of Digital Pakistan and freedom of expression over the Internet. “We are fully cognizant of the critical role of the Internet and Social Media in promoting digital economy and freedom of expression”, it said, adding that Prime Minister of Pakistan has constituted a Consultation Committee to undertake open and broad-based consultation with all stakeholders. Accordingly, the implementation of the Rules has been suspended and the consultation/review process has been initiated.