For Immediate Release  

PTA’s  apparent persistent pursuit of a URL filtration and blocking system is not acceptable

Contact: Sana Saleem – Bolo Bhi

Email: sana@bolobhi.org

Please note that this is an unconfirmed report but from a reliable source, we are following the situation and will be publishing confirmed reports immediately. 

Karachi 20th June 2012:  We received information from a reliable source that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued a notification to other government departments announcing the installation of a filtering system. This has in turn been sent to some IT companies. As citizens concerned about internet freedom and free flow of information, this unconfirmed news is of grave concern to us.

With great caution, we would like to share an update on this situation: The exact words in the email are pasted below.

“Please note that PTA has deployed an automatic filtering system and is directly blocking sites deemed as disseminating objectionable content. Our upstream providers are no longer managing this process. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused you.”

The content in the email suggests that the ISPs will no longer be responsible for blocking websites and that the PTA will now be able to block sites at will.

The content in the email suggests that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will no longer be responsible for blocking websites and that the PTA will now be able to block sites at will.

We are currently working in to verifying this news from various other sources. We are in communication with government officials who have committed to update us on the issue. We issue this statement with caution.

As a reminder: 

On the 17th of April 2012, seven individuals* through their advocates Haider Waheed and Basil Nabi Malik, petitioned the High Court of Sindh at Karachi challenging the arbitrary and random acts of the PTA in blocking/censoring and restricting access to various websites in violation of the fundamental rights of the owners of the websites/online forums as well as the public at large, and without affording the aggrieved persons an opportunity of being heard or due notice.

The Honorable High Court of Sindh issued notice to the Federation of Pakistan, through the Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, through its Chairman, and furthermore ordered the PTA said not to block any website other than in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996.

A letter to the PTA has already been issued demanding a clarification on the issue and we would like to reassert that any steps by the PTA to pursue ad hoc blocking will be a violation of the court stay order.

If true, this is a set-back to the free-flow of information and internet freedom in Pakistan. Despite the Ministry of IT making a commitment to Bushra Gohar, Member of National Assembly,the PTA’s persistent pursuit of a URL filtration and blocking system is extremely disappointing and shows disregard for democratic values.

 

Bolo Bhi means ‘Speak up’, we are an organization with focus on advocacy, policy and research. Our focus areas include human rights with focus on gender and minority rights, internet freedom and privacy. We believe it is crucial to bridge the gap between rights advocates, policy makers,  media and average citizens. Bridging the gap enables collective strength and concentrated focus on the areas that require attention. 

 

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