Lack of freedom of expression will compromise other rights, says Islamabad High Court

February 4, 2022 – The Islamabad High Court (IHC) resumed the hearing on petitions challenging the “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules, along with the TikTok ban, on February 3.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the case where he had directed the amicus curiae to submit their briefs regarding the notified Social Media Rules in the previous hearing on January 6. Senior journalist Hamid Mir submitted his report to the Court, whereas, Advocate Imaan Hazir Mazari requested more time to submit the brief on behalf of the amici who could not submit the detailed report in the hearing on Thursday.  The bench had appointed Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Sadaf Khan, Farieha Aziz, Rafay Baloch and Nighat Dad to assist the court.

The Court has directed the amici curiae to submit their report in the next hearing on March 7.

During the hearing on the petitions that focused on censorship on the internet, the Chief Justice remarked that there are at least 3 to 4 important aspects to note from the perspective of Article 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan that grants freedom of expression as a right to the citizens. He elaborated that hate speech or incitement to violence should not be justified under the garb of freedom of expression, and without freedom of expression all other rights will also be compromised, therefore the right to access to information is important. Justice Athar Minallah said that open access to the information is important for society’s progress.

Mishaal is a Project Coordinator at Media Matters for Democracy. She is a Public Policy graduate with past experience as content strategist and research writer. Her main areas of interest are political science, world history, and public policy.

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