Bolo Bhi challenges Section 9.8 of Telecom Policy in Court

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Bolo Bhi has amended its existing petition before the Islamabad High Court challenging the government and PTA’s powers to block content online, to include Section 9.8 of the Telecom Policy launched by the Ministry of IT in January 2016, which seeks to empower PTA with content management powers online.

See:

Application to amend plaint

Application to submit additional documents

Background & Details:

In December 2014, Bolo Bhi filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court, challenging the constitutionality and legality of the IMCEW and PTA’s powers to block content online.

In our first hearing, on December 15, 2014, we were able to obtain a stay order, barring the IMCEW from issuing any directives before coming to court first. The court also ordered the government to submit details of websites blocked over the last three years, as well as minutes of meetings held in the same duration. Read a summary of the hearing.

During our second hearing, on January 15, 2015, the court expressed its dissatisfaction over where the IMCEW was deriving powers and summoned Chairman PTA to appear in person on the next date of hearing to explain under what law was the IMCEW dictating orders to the PTA, supposedly an independent regulatory authority. Read a summary of the hearing and the order.

In our third hearing, on January 20, 2015, when questioned again about which law the IMCEW derived its powers from, the government stated that the IMCEW was a recommendatory body and that it was the PTA, as regulator, that was empowered to manage content. Further, the Ministry of IT argued there were terrorist websites online that needed to be blocked and thus PTA must be allowed to block. The court amended its order stating that a complaint for blocking of a website was to be made to the PTA, and PTA in acting upon any complaint would have to file a report explaining the reason for regulating any site.

In March 2015, the Prime Minister disbanded the IMCEW, with the announcement that PTA was being given content management powers. The notification de-notifying the committee was presented in court. View notification de-notifying the IMCEW. The same month, Bolo Bhi got a hold of a leaked copy of the government’s proposed Prevention of Electronic Crimes bill. In April 2015, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on IT approved a modified version of the leaked bill. Section 34 of the proposed bill seeks to empower PTA to block content online. In May 2015, together with our rejoinder to the government, we submitted a copy of the April’15 version of PECB.

In January 2016, the Ministry of IT launched the Telecom Policy 2015. Section 9.8 of the policy gives the PTA content management powers – assuming that MOITT has the power to do so. On February 29, 2016 Bolo Bhi filed an application amending our petition to challenge Section 9.8 of the Telecom Policy.

We have also supplied the court with additional documents, which include the Telecom Policy and the September version of PECB. The documents also include Express Tribune’s article on the brief WordPress ban on March 22, 2015; Twitter’s Jan-Jun 2015 Transparency report, which records that PTA made 6 requests and 60 accounts were specified; my op-ed for Dawn on Section 9 of the Telecom Policy; and MOITT’s response to International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) objections with regards to PECB.

The below paragraph from the Ministry’s response to the ICC pertains to our case, and we feel it is a misrepresentation of the court’s order and the government is misleading on this issue with regards to its powers to manage content online. Thus we are bringing this to the court’s attention.


“…the Islamabad High Court (IHC) vide its order dated 20.01.2015 has also directed PTA to undertake actions in respect of objectionable material assessable through internet. This order is in response to the petition filed by a NGO and this instant order of the IHC affirms the above position, disregarding stance of the NGO with respect to PTA’S powers to manage content online.”  

See our application to submit additional documents.

Find our petition, annexure, court orders and other documents in this archive here

See all cybercrime documents here

For queries, contact: farieha@bolobhi.org

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based, APNS-awardwinning journalist. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi. She has a masters in English literature. She worked with Newsline from July 2007-January 2012 and taught literature to grades 9-12. She served as an amicus curiae in a case filed in the Lahore High Court in 2013, challenging the ban on YouTube, and is currently a petitioner on behalf of Bolo Bhi in a case filed in the Islamabad High Court challenging government's censorship on the Internet and the powers of the regulator. She can be found on Twitter: @FariehaAziz and reached via email: farieha@bolobhi.org

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