Government to hold further consultations on social media rules, IHC directs Attorney General to submit report on April 2

Islamabad, February 26, 2021 – The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has asked the Attorney General of Pakistan (AG) to submit a report on Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content Rules 2020, popularly known as the Social Media Rules, after holding multi-stakeholder consultations, and has granted an extension of one month to update the Court in the next hearing fixed for April 2. The Attorney General is representing the Federal Government in a number of cases filed against the said Rules along with cases of blocking of different web applications. The Court said that decision in these cases would be given only after the submission of AG’s report.

On 19th February 2021, the Attorney General held a meeting with a limited number of stakeholders after the directions of the IHC in a hearing on January 25. The stakeholders invited to the meeting shared their concerns, grievances and legal issues with the Rules. In the meeting, the AG had indicated that further consultations may be held with all stakeholders.

In the hearing today, the Deputy Attorney General Syed Tabib Shah asked the IHC to give at least one more month to hold said consultations. He said that the government wants to listen to all the stakeholders before preparing any new draft for the Rules. He said that the Attorney General also listened to some stakeholders and more would be involved. He said that written and oral submission shared during the consultative meeting at the AG office would be considered, and a new draft would be prepared. The Deputy AG further said that the AG would submit his report in the High Court after the consultation process.

The IHC directed the registrar to set the next hearing in this case on 2nd April. A case regarding contempt of court by TV anchors is also clubbed with this hearing, and would be heard on the same date.

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