IHC seeks inter-ministerial committee report on social media rules

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday sought the report of inter-ministerial committee constituted to examine the social media rules.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, while hearing identical petitions filed against the implementation of “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2020” appreciated the Prime Minister’s initiative to constitute the high level committee and sought the report in a month.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted a five-member high level inter-ministerial committee under Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari with Parliamentary Secretary on Law and Justice Maleeka Ali Bukhari, Senator Syed Ali Zafar, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom Secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui and chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) retired Major General Amir Azeem Bajwa its members.

A statement issued by the office of the Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan earlier this week said: “The Information Technology and Telecommunication Division shall function as the secretariat of the committee and the committee shall submit its report along with recommendations in the matter to the prime minister within a period of 30-days.

“The committee will commence its work and the secretariat would intimate public at large of the date and venue for consultations with all stakeholders including petitioners who had filed the petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).”

Justice Minallah expressed the hope that the committee would examine the suggestions and objections of the stakeholders before finalizing the report.

The Chief Justice asked the attorney general as to whether he is part of the committee, the AG replied that an eminent lawyer Syed Ali Zafar is a member of the committee and the Attorney General office is also at the disposal of the said committee for legal assistance.

A counsel for the petitioner pointed out that there was no member from the opposition parties and the committee will prepare one-sided report.

Attorney General said there was possibility of involving the opposition in the committee however due to apprehension that it would further delay the matter, the committee comprises of the members from treasury benches.

Justice Minallah advised the counsel to wait for the report of the committee before raising objections.

Further hearing in the petitions has been adjourned till May 10.

The petitioners in this matter are Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) secretary general Nasir Zaidi, Awami Workers Party, Dawn’s Employees Union, Amber Rahim Shamsi and a citizen Mohammad Ashfaq Jatt who have challenged these rules, saying they are contrary to the freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution.

According to the petitions, implementation of ‘Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards), Rules 2020’ will inevitably lead to violation of rights to livelihood and freedom of trade and profession, guaranteed to the citizens under Articles 9 and 18 of the Constitution.

Newspaper: Dawn


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