Civil Society Organizations urge govt not to pass Prevention of Electronic Bill

Peshawar: Representatives of different Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have termed the proposed Prevention of Electronic Bill (PEB) 2015 against civil liberties, freedom of expression and right to privacy and called for removal of their reservations over the bill.

Speaking at a news conference here at Press Club on Wednesday, Qamar Naseem, Taimor Kama and Zar Ali Musazai of different CSOs said that they were not opposing that law as Pakistan required a law to deal with the issues of cybercrimes but they were opposing the bill because its language is not clear.

The bill, they claimed is proposing extremely strict punishments, it will have drastic negative impact on internet users, social media and online activities therefore this bill should not be passé in haste

“The context of the cybercrime bill is in contradiction with the Article 19 of the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)” adding that it required state parties to guarantee the right to freedom of expression including the right to receive and impart information of all kind regardless of frontiers.

They maintained that the freedom of expression and the right to privacy are interrelated. “The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression, they added.

They said the government had stated that it intended to protect the freedom of expression while the CSOs were lauding the government for aiming to protect the freedom of expression but the reservations, they had, was of its PECB’s current form, which they added contained provisions that violated international standard of the freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

They informed that the Standing Committee on Information Technology and telecommunication after conducting a series of consultation with multi stakeholders, political parties’ representatives and a national consultation on the proposed bill approved it.

They called upon the government to redraft the bill with full consideration of the globally accepted human rights framework ICCPR (article17-18 and 19 etc) with the purpose of ensuring protection of fundamental rights, instead of compromising them through potential abuse.

They claimed that the government also wanted to address the propaganda campaigns of extremist groups operating about 3,000 websites in the country to promote their agenda and radical vision but the representatives of CSOs were of the view that it did not need Electronic Crime Bill 2015 to close the propaganda campaign of extremist groups through their websites but it could easily be done through provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.