For immediate release:
Civil Society Against Blanket Ban of The Internet in Pakistan: Stop the Firewall
This is in pursuance of our press release and letter issued on the 22nd of February, 2012 to the Ministry of IT and ICT R&D fund, in reply to the call for Proposals for ‘URL Filtering and Blocking’.
Our demand for transparency and reconsideration of the blanket ban was met with silence from the government. Given the silence, lack of dialogue, transparency and keeping the history of censorship in mind, we have reason to believe that this is an initiative based primarily on blanket censorship rather than due process of law against criminal content. By avoiding and taking for granted a call for transparency from civil society, the Ministry of IT and ICT R&D fund have reaffirmed the fears that it doesn’t plan to uphold democracy. This is extremely disappointing.
The right to information is our democratic right. In absence of an e-crime legislation and committee of policy makers, internet governance experts and stakeholders from the industry, any steps to ‘filter or block URLs’ will be considered nothing short of a rigorous crackdown on internet freedom. In the past, censorship in the name of national security, religion and morality has been used effectively to curtail political dissent, shrink democratic spaces and marginalize public debate. However, this from the Government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that takes pride in itself as champions of democracy is shocking, uncalled for and unacceptable.
This is not about child pornography or not, this is about censorship in Pakistan or not. We believe it is important that democracy survives in the internet age. We strongly believe that a blanket ban such as the one proposed by the IT ministry and ICT R&D Fund will make the internet effectively useless: hampering businesses, academics, researchers, students and innumerable other sectors. We consider it an infringement of our democratic rights and a grave threat to the state of the internet in Pakistan.
We call on the National Assembly, the Ministry of Finance, Foreign Ministry and most of all the Prime Minister to uphold and deliver their pledge for democracy and to instruct the Ministry of IT to respect our call for access. As civil society members we will be pursuing all platforms possible to exercise our political and democratic right as citizens of this country. Initiatives intended to block or limit access will push us further into an information black-hole, a circumstance we cannot afford.