The Pakistan Penal Code and Online Content

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In April 2014, Facebook released its second transparency report. This showed that they had complied with a Pakistan government request for restriction of content on the basis of ‘criticism of the state’ in compliance with ‘local law’ (see report here).

[See also Facebook Transparency Report: Since When is Criticism of the State Illegal in Pakistan]

Between May 5-14, 2014, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority made five requests to Twitter for content restriction, citing the Pakistan Penal Code as legal justification for content removal. The requests, which pertained to tweets and account, were restricted in Pakistan until Twitter reversed its decisions following a public outcry and media attention.

[See Twitter Reverses Blocking Decision Amid Critcism , The Chilling Effects of Twitter’s Country Withheld Content Tool and Analysis: Censoring Tweets in Pakistan]

On June 5, 2014, popular music band Laal’s Facebook page was restricted from view in Pakistan. This decision, too, was reversed shortly after it was made.

[See Facebook Blocks Page of Laal Music Band at Government Request]

The problem of arbitrary censorship of online content in Pakistan continues – and Pakistani authorities are not only contributors to this problem. Companies, in complying with requests made to them by Pakistani authorities, also play a significant role.

Following these incidents, we decided to undertake a detailed legal study of the provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code that impact speech and whether the PPC can be applied to online content and to companies outside Pakistan. We also review – as we have done before – the legality and status of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Websites (IMCEW), and discuss in detail intermediary liability protection for online platforms in Pakistan. Read the legal analysis below:

View here or Download here

See Related Posts:

Blocking of YouTube: What’s Legal, What’s Not

Video Interview: Babar Sattar (English)

Video Interview: Babar Sattar (Urdu)

Documentary: Pakistan’s Internet BANwagon

LHC interim order

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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