Quetta, 21 Feb 2020: Journalists, lawyers and members of the civil society have rejected the recently notified Citizen Protection (against online harm) Rules 2020 and demanded that the government immediately de-notify the Rules and create a strong strategy to ensure meaningful consultations with all stakeholders before drafting any new policy to regulate social media. These demands were made by Shahzada Zulfiqar, President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), at a joint press conference held by PFUJ, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Quetta Bar Association and other civil society organisations.
Balochistan Union of Journalists also announced that they will be holding a demonstration in front of the Balochistan Assembly on 24th February, 2020.
The chair of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Balochistan chapter Advocate Habib Tahir, Former President of Supreme Court Bar Association Ali Ahmad Kurd, President of Balochistan High Court Bar Advocate Syed Basit Shah, Vice President of Balochistan Bar Council Syed Saleem Lashari, President of Quetta Bar Association Asif Raiki, President of Quetta Press Club Zia Ur Rehman, President of Balochistan Union of Journalists Ayub Tareen, and the General Secretary of the Union Rasheed Baloch address the press conference and stressed upon the need for multi stakeholder consultations for the Rules.
Speaking at the occasion, Shahzada Zulfiqar, President PFUJ, announced that the PFUJ in collaboration with different civil society organisations, has initiated a movement against the rules across the country. The Union will be holding joint press conferences in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta Press Club and a national conference will be held on Thursday, 27th February at National Press Club, Islamabad, in which lawyers and other civil society representatives would also be present.
He said that a joint declaration on the social media rules, will also be issued at the National Conference.
He appreciated the Prime Minister’s decision to consult with the stakeholders on the rules, but also expressed concern that the government has not initiated any measures to create mutual trust. He demanded that the government should urgently denitrify the riles formally. He said that if the government is sincere, they would have to take practical measures as it is not possible to discard the rules without a formal denotification.
Zulfiqar said that the government had not released any strategy for consultation with civil society which is a matter of concern both for civil society organisations and the public at large. He said that the implement station of new social media rules would have direct impact on the constitutional right of freedom of expression of people and press freedoms and would also affect Pakistan’s digital economy.
Ali Ahmed Kurd, former president Supreme Court Bar Association said that the media in Pakistan has earned its independence after a long fight. He said that journalists do not want freedom of expression for themselves but for the citizens of Pakistan. He said that the constitution guarantees the right of freedom of expression and this right cannot be obstructed through an ordinance. He said that social media gives voice to the common man and assured PFUJ that he stands with them for this movement.
The chair of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Balochistan chapter Advocate Habib Tahir said that the social media rules should be presented in front of the stakeholders and the parliament. He said that this regulation should be done in consultation with the stakeholders. He said that the attempt to create a new law under the guise of the rules is just an attempt to control social media. He said that legislation is the sole prerogative of the parliament and it is shameful that dictatorial attitudes are prevailing in a democratic era.