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Islamabad High Court Issued Notice to PTA

Islamabad High Court Issued Notice to PTA.

Pakistan Court Challenges Social Media Ban as Twitter Access Remains Restricted (March 5, 2024)

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued notices to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of Information in response to a petition challenging the ongoing ban on X (formerly Twitter) in the country.

This development comes as access to the social media platform remains heavily restricted since February 17, 2024.

The Trigger for the Ban:

The restrictions on X stem from controversial allegations made by Liaquat Chattha, the former Rawalpindi commissioner, who implicated both the Chief Election Commissioner and the Chief Justice of Pakistan in misconduct surrounding the February 8th general elections. These accusations ignited a firestorm of debate and concerns, culminating in the government’s decision to limit access to social media platforms like X.

Government’s Stance on Social Media:

Last month, Caretaker Federal Minister for Information, Broadcasting, and Parliamentary Affairs, Murtaza Solangi, addressed the media, expressing the government’s anxieties regarding the potential misuse of social media platforms to incite violence and disrupt social order. He emphasized the government’s commitment to holding individuals accountable who engage in illegal activities online, while also reiterating their respect for the freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution. However, he stressed the importance of exercising this right within the legal framework of the country.

Legal Challenge and Upcoming Developments:

On March 5th, a petition challenging the social media ban was presented to IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq. The petition highlights the government’s imposition of restrictions on X since February 17th. In response, the IHC issued notices to both the information ministry and the PTA, scheduling the next hearing for the following week.

Parallel Developments and a Change of Heart:

Interestingly, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Bahramand Tangi introduced a resolution in the Senate last week, proposing a complete ban on various social media platforms, including Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, X, and YouTube. This proposal sparked controversy, with concerns raised about its potential violation of free speech and internet freedom. However, Senator Tangi has since retracted his statement and apologized for proposing the resolution.

Uncertain Future for X in Pakistan:

The ongoing legal challenge and the government’s stance towards social media platforms create an environment of uncertainty regarding the future of X in Pakistan. While the IHC’s decision remains to be seen, the incident underscores the complex relationship between online expression, public discourse, and government regulations in the digital age.

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