While, Pakistanis were waiting long for the return of YouTube, the government has jumped into passing the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PEC) 2015.
Much to our surprise and annoyance of the ICT community, the ‘Cyber Crime Bill’ in the current state has been passed by the National Assembly. The bill was initially drafted by PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association), ISPAK and few other stakeholders; who are now totally against the bill due to its anti-social media nature that they feel has been changed drastically. These ICT bodies have decided to aggressively run their anti bill campaigns in the current form on the issue in order to aware the general public about their civil liberties and freedom of expression. According to PASHA and ISPAK, the bill has been secretly modified at the last moment without their consultation.
“The government has not even consulted the relevant parties. The draft law is being rushed in the name of National Security and the National Action Plan so that the government can have more control over public speech and censor it as they wish to.”
Said Pakistan Software Houses Association (Pasha) president Jehan Ara, speaking at the educational and interactive awareness programme on the PEC on Friday.
According to PASHA, “Prevention of Electronics Crime Bill, 2015” will negatively impact the freedom of every Pakistan internet user whether it be an individual, media, industry or research institutions. Interestingly, no one is allowed to say anything against government on any social media forum, hence the bill has totally curbed digital media and exempted both print and electronic media from it.
According to PASHA & ISPAK the Main Controversial clauses are:
- Political commentary, criticism or analysis in the form of blogs, cartoons and memes or a status update on social media
- Sending a message or emailing without the recipient’s permission
- Posting a picture of another person without their permission on an online forum
Looking for the solution, it will be highly advisable that as the law is more related to curbing public freedom than government itself, hence Miss Jehan Ara added that:
“We demand two things. First that they should make the draft public and second that they should consult legal experts, industry experts and the civil society to ensure that it is in the best interest of the people.”