The major criticism on the recently approved CyberCrime Bill-2015, is that the bill is prepared behind closed doors. To play down this criticism from civil society, the government has asked the general public to send in written suggestions – within seven days – regarding the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015. Some of the civil society and industry professionals are still not happy with this suggestion and have asked the chairman of National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology to provide an opportunity to make a presentation to the standing committee.
A body of civil society, Members of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and some others have even demanded that the bill should be sent back to the standing committee for reconsideration process.
An official statement released on last Saturday by the Government asked the civil society and concerned stakeholders to send their proposed amendments and their justifications to Captain Mohammad Safdar (R), son in law of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is also the chairman of the standing committee on IT.
The Procedure to Send Objections and Proposed Amendments is:
- Either send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- or post your objections to National Assembly Standing Committee on Information technology.
For reference purpose, the proposed bill had been uploaded on the websites of the National Assembly as well as the Ministry of IT (MoIT).
Civil society and media persons have severely criticized the “Prevention of Electronics Crime Bill”, as they are considering it as an attempt to intervene the right of freedom of expression through proposed legislation on cyber-crime.
A spokesperson of MoITT, confirmed that the present bill is not the same that was introduced by the Ministry in January 2014. He said that the bill was not prepared behind closed doors rather it had been prepared after consecutive 24 meetings with relevant industry professionals, concerned stakeholders and representatives of civil society.
On the other hand, Usama Khilji of “Bolo Bhi” talking to press said that “Section 34” of the bill is extremely problematic; which gives authority to the PTA to censor anything that will affect the freedom of the media and freedom of expression. Also “Section 18” put ban on caricatures and cartoons of political personalities.
“The power to censor material from the Internet should rest with the courts, not the PTA.”
It is interesting to note that the NGO has ignored the fact that PTA is the national ICT regulator and have come through a legislative process with supposedly an independent Authority to undertake such task, whereas the court could be approached in case of any wrongdoing by the regulator.
Tahir Malik, Professor at National University of Modern Languages and part of civil society, said in an interactive session organized by the National Press Club Islamabad last week, that:
“A society could not progress without critical thinking and fair competition to acquire modern techniques and skills. All segments of the society including journalists, doctors and engineers should be engaged to raise voice against the cybercrime bill as it is bound to curtail freedom of expression if passed by the Parliament.”
According to the civil society, the Government has some political objectives behind the approval of this bill and it wants to throttle freedom of expression and freedom of speech through the legislation. The government has failed to take the civil society and representative of IT industry into confidence over the matter of cybercrime.