PTA seeks upgradation of its censorship tool

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is soliciting proposals in its efforts to upgrade its censorship tools.

PTA solicited proposals through newspaper ad published in all the major newspapers of Pakistan that is also available on its website.

According to the ad, “Solution Providers/Vendors” have been asked to submit their applications by March 08, 2018 for the deployment of “Turn Key Technical Solution hereinafter referred to as “Web Management Solution”, at national level, for identifying and blocking access to any on-line content classified as unlawful under Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.”

It is to be noted that under Section 37 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016, PECA, PTA is empowered to take down online content.

“The Authority shall have the power to remove or block or issue directions for removal or blocking of access to an information through any information system if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam, or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or a.ny part thereof, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or commission of or incitement to an offence under this Act,” reads the act.

However, the rules of procedure for blocking the content have not yet been shared by PTA despite filing Right to Information requests by Media Matters for Democracy. On the other, sources within PTA keep insisting that the rules have been finalized and will be shared soon after approval from the cabinet.

Executive Director Media Matters for Democracy Asad Baig expressed frustration at the ambiguity lying around the procedure to block content by PTA.

Mr. Baig also expressed frustration at lack of response from PTA at his petition challenging PTA’s move in November 2017 to ban social media websites including Twitter and Facebook. Earlier in January 2018, Media Matters for Democracy had filed a petition at Islamabad High Court challenging PTA’s move for blocking social media sites including Facebook and Twitter for 30 hours without giving any justification.

Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.

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