Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has dispelled the prejudiced impression created by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) and its members regarding the “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards), Rules 2020.”
PTA spokesperson said that the rules titled “The Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards), Rules 2020” have been notified by the Federal Government vide notification dated November 27, 2020. These rules have been framed as a statutory requirement under Section 37 (2) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA).
“A comprehensive consultation process was carried out by the Consultation Committee formed on the directions of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. During the process, key local and international stakeholders were invited in the interest of broad-based consultation, active engagement, and open dialogue, including the Asian Internet Coalition (AIC) and its members, i.e., Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc, ” said the statement issued by the PTA.
The Committee held a meeting with AIC on June 19, 2020. During the meeting, the Committee and the AIC exchanged views, and the AIC submitted a response regarding the consultation framework. AIC members Facebook, Google, and Twitter, were also approached for consultation individually, as desired by the AIC. Google and Facebook participated in the consultation process on June 26 and 29, 2020, respectively.
“Hence, AIC’s stance that meaningful consultation was not carried out is misleading and against the facts,” said PTA.
“Since timelines were to be followed by the Committee for finalization of its report based on the Honourable Islamabad High Court order dated 12-09-2019 and Federal Government directions vide Consultation Committee notification dated February 28, 2020, the process could not be kept open-ended and prolonged indefinitely,” it added.
Therefore, after due consultation, the final report of the Committee was submitted to the Federal Government, considering all reasonable concerns and recommendations of stakeholders, remaining within the legal provisions and the tenets of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the PECA 2016, said the statement.
The right to freedom of speech and expression has duly been included in Chapter 2 of the Rules, in accordance with Article 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
PTA wishes to dispel the prejudiced and wrong impression being created regarding the Rules. It is reiterated that the rules in no sense aim to harm the business environment in Pakistan and would pave the way for better investment opportunities for tech companies while remaining compliant with local laws.
The statement further stated that “PTA, as the telecom sector regulator, shall continue to support all tech companies and stakeholders in realizing digital transformation goals within the bounds of the country’s laws and relevant rules.”