The Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan (PILAP), under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017 has asked for the provision of the information from the office of the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Technology, Islamabad. The detail of the requested information is reproduced as under:
i) “Given that PECA 2016 has the requirement of issuing a warrant before removing any unlawful online content, why do the 2020 Rules not have this requirement and why is online content mandated to be arbitrarily removed by private service providers and Social Media Companies?
ii) How do the Rules seek to balance the Fundamental Rights to freedom of speech and expression, and the right to information under the Rules, especially as regards holding the Government and holders of public office accountable, particularly in light of Rule 4(1)(ii) which states that online content may be removed or blocked if the information “intimates or harms the reputation of Federal or Provincial Government or any person holding public office….or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite dissatisfaction towards the Federal Government or Provincial Government” ?
iii) Why are the rules arbitrary in removing online content without allowing due process rights to be exercised or giving the content creator the right to be heard?
iv) What is the reasoning behind the requirement for Service Providers and Social Media Companies to provide personal subscriber information,
APPEAL NO. 818-01-2021
traffic and content data of users to law enforcement agencies? How is this provision balanced with the right to privacy and the Fundamental Right to inviolability of dignity of man?”
The Commission allowed the appeal. The Secretary, Ministry of Information and Technology is directed to provide the appellant the requested information, forthwith but not later than ten days of the receipt of this order. The response should be based on record available indicating measures taken or not taken as per legal obligations of the respondent.
He is further directed to implement mandatory sections 5 & 9 of the Act in letter and spirit within one month of the receipt of this order, under intimation to this Commission.