Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 – Government invites foreign social media companies
The government has invited foreign social media companies for consultation on controversial Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020. The government has constituted a committee to start the consultation process on Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020, which attracted criticism from different segments of society. On behalf of the consultation committee, Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Amir Azeem Bajwa has invited Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) for the ongoing consultation process over Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020.
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In a formal letter written to the Managing Director of AIC, chairman PTA invited AIC and its members for a consultative face to face or video conferencing meeting with the committee during the coming week. The letter has been written to Jeff Paine, managing director AIC in response to his letter addressed to Imran Khan, prime minister, dated 15th February 2020, conveying AIC’s concerns over “The Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020”.
The letter stated, “Government of Pakistan and Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) is a strong proponent of Digital Pakistan and freedom of expression over the Internet. We are fully cognizant of the critical role played by Technology Companies in promoting the digital economy and freedom of expression. I am sure you are aware that in order to assuage concerns expressed by AIC and other segments of society over the subject Rules, Prime of Pakistan has directed to constitute a Consultation Committee to undertake open and broad-based consultation with all stakeholders.”
“Accordingly, the implementation of the Rules has been suspended and consultation/review process initiated. In this context, on behalf of the Consultation Committee, I would like to formally invite AIC and its members for the consultation process. The Consultation Committee looks forward to a meeting on a mutually convenient date, preferably in the week beginning 16th March 2020, to deliberate on the valuable input offered by AIC to reach upon some mutually beneficial solution. Although, a face to face meeting is preferred, in case of any travel-related issues, the option of doing a video conference meeting can be considered. Nisar Ahmed, DG CVD, PTA would be the focal person to coordinate further details,” it added.
The AIC had written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, while Google, Facebook, and other tech giants threatened to abandon Pakistan regarding the rules.
The prime minister had directed broad-based consultations with all stakeholders on the implementation of rules. Two meetings of the consultation committee, which comprises Amir Azeem Bajwa, chairman PTA (convener), Eazaz Aslam Dar, Additional Secretary Ministry of IT and Telecom, Tania Aidrus, member of Strategic Reforms Implementation Unit, Prime Minister’s Office, Islamabad and Dr. Arslan Khalid, focal person to the prime minister on digital media, Prime Minister’s Office, Islamabad, have been held since its formation.
The committee emphasized setting clear objectives to be achieved from the rules, and the consultation process is focused on the attainment of desired objectives. The committee also deliberated upon offenses under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA 2016).
The committee decided that a questionnaire be posted on the PTA website for soliciting feedback from stakeholders. Furthermore, the plan for consultation meetings with stakeholders was also discussed. The committee also identified the need for Data Protection Law in Pakistan.