FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cautious Celebration: Report Suggests Pakistan IT Ministry Withdraw Internet Censorship Plans
On Monday, the 19th of March, the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) confirmed to Member National Assembly Bushra Gohar, that plans for an Internet URL filtering & blocking system have been withdrawn (see: here).
The plan (see: here) was for the ICT R&D Fund under the MoIT to purchase technology to develop a system locally to systematically censor Pakistan’s Internet without any regulatory oversight.
In the short term, we call on the MoIT to confirm the censorship plans are withdrawn. We understand the IT Ministry will release a statement in the coming hours but will continue to advocate for an end to these plans until they do so.
Post-public statement from the MoIT, the second phase of the campaign will push for e-crime legislation. We understand there is a desire to criminalize pornography (see:here) this emphasizes the need for the hasty implementation of e-crime legislations formulated with contributions from all stakeholders. The Internet in Pakistan remains censored. We fear the government could continue with their plans covertly, in a similar fashion to how they’ve censored Pakistan’s Internet for years. We continue to advocate for the necessary regulation to ensure transparency and government accountability.
Thank you to everyone who has worked on this campaign: the pressure Business Human Rights successfully applied on international filtering companies (see: here), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (see: here) and the Global Network Initiative (see: here) for the super support, the thousands of Internet users who signed Access Now’s petition (see: here) and Access Now for leading on this, and finally, thank you Bushra Gohar and all the public and private support from friends and allies over the past weeks it has been encouraging and uplifting. We need to continue working together until an e-crime legislation is implemented ensuring there will be no covert censorship and violation of user privacy in Pakistan.
While today’s news doesn’t put an end to Internet censorship in Pakistan, it is a milestone. Often bad news comes from Pakistan; today it’s good news. The Internet stood together to stop this authoritarian move, Pakistan government responded to calls from Pakistani people, re-establishing some confidence in the democratic system.
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