We welcome the Senate Committee On Human Rights’ decision rejecting the proposed regulation on Web TV and OTT TV, while declaring that PEMRA does not have any jurisdiction over internet and digital content under the PEMRA ordinance. The Senate Committee on Human Rights conducted a briefing about PEMRA’s proposed regulations, inviting Digital Rights Foundation and other civil society organizations on Monday, 10th of February.
The committee took notice of proposed PEMRA regulations after a strong statement issued by Digital Rights Foundation, Bolo Bhi, IRADA, Freedom Network and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, rejecting PEMRA’s regulation on the whole. Statement was endorsed by dozens of media organizations, the Women Action Forum, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Network of Women Journalists on Digital Rights, independent journalists, content creators, CSOs and feminists movements.
The Chair of the Committee, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, objected to the proposed regulation while questioning PEMRA’s very jurisdiction over the internet and digital content. Additionally Senator Ayesha Raza commented that if PEMRA aims to ‘level the playing field’ with these regulations then traditional media needs to be incentivized to create competition, rather than curbing the digital economy.
DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad said that these regulations would mean PEMRA is threatening Pakistan’s growing digital economy and also the livelihood of digital content creators and influencers. She pressed how these regulations would add further impediments to freedom to expression, given PEMRA’s power to declare anything as ‘illegal content’. These restrictions, she added, would be contradictory to the vision and spirit of the Prime Minister’s ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative.
Bolo Bhi’s Director, Usama Khilji, said that these proposed regulations would impact young entrepreneurs given how digital platforms are used in this modern age. He further added that these regulations would stifle the growth of the startups in Pakistan. Moreover, it was pointed out that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) has provisions to hold digital content creators and influencers accountable.
This is a big win for Pakistan not only for digital rights activists but everyone who is part of the digital economy. DRF, Bolo Bhi, Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development, Freedom Network would like to express our gratitude to each organization and individuals who signed our public statement.
Lastly, we would like to express our appreciation to Senators Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Senator Quratulain Marri, Senator Usman Kakar and Senator Mohammad Tahir Bizenjo, for giving us all the opportunity to present our arguments and for protecting the digital rights and civil liberties of the citizens of Pakistan.