Prime Minister Imran Khan has constituted an inter-ministerial committee to review the controversial social media rules.
The controversial social media rules in question are the ones that were released by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) back in November last year. They were widely criticized by stakeholders such as internet service providers and digital rights activists for being “draconian” in nature.
Featuring harsh punishments like Rs500 million fines and 24-hour content removal notices, many people felt that they were giving the government way too much of an influence in the online space and undermining the right to online expression for the masses.
As per a directive issued by the Prime Minister Office on March 29, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari will be chairperson of the committee comprising Parliamentary Secretary on Law and Justice Maleeka Ali Bukhari, Senator Syed Ali Zafar, Secretary of Information Technology Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui and Chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) retired Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa.
A statement issued by the office of Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan on Tuesday said that the Information Technology and Telecommunication Division would function as the committee’s secretariat. It will submit a report along with its recommendations in the matter to the prime minister within 30 days.
The committee will commence work and its secretariat would intimate public at large of the date and venue for consultations with all stakeholders, including the petitioners who have challenged the social media rules in the Islamabad High Court.
The petitioners — Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists secretary general Nasir Zaidi, the Awami Workers Party, Dawn’s Employees Union, Amber Rahim Shamsi and citizen Mohammad Ashfaq Jatt — contends that the rules are contrary to the freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution.
The IHC chief justice had during a hearing of the petition in January observed that the government did not consult the stakeholders before promulgating the rules.