Update: 18th Hearing of Internet Freedom Case – Federal Minister failed again to appear in the court

Lahore, Tuesday, March 11, 2014:  The 18th hearing of the Bytes for All vs. The Federation of Pakistan Net Freedom case, more commonly known as the ‘YouTube case’, was held today at the Lahore High Court. This Net Freedom case of global importance is being heard by a Division Bench, headed by the Honorable Justice Mansoor Ali Shah. 
At the 17th hearing, honourable judges of the Division Bench had summoned the Federal Minister of Information Technology (MoIT), Ms. Anusha Rahman, for the third time, ordering her to appear in the court and present a written policy statement on the government’s position and intentions with respect to lifting the ban on Youtube, after she failed to appear twice in the past.
Regrettably, today’s hearing turned out to be no different, as the Minister did not show up again under the pretext of ‘security concerns’, paying no heed to the court’s orders. However, the Federal Secretary of Information Technology was present at the hearing to share a statement on the Minister’s behalf without her signatures, at which Justice Shah expressed his dismay at the secretary’s lack of awareness with regard to his limitation to his authority to submit a policy statement on behalf of the government. 
Justice Shah noted that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ordered blocking of the offending ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video, not the whole Youtube platform, crystallizing the illegality of government and PTA’s actions. He further remarked on the educational and informational value of Youtube, and on the citizens’ own choice not to watch offensive material that people can exercise.
The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, 13 March 2014, when the court expects to receive a signed statement by the Minister for IT and possibly issue a verdict. 
Bytes for All stands by its stance on the illegality of the government’s actions in filtering the Internet, blocking free speech & expression, assembly and access to information – rights guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan. We strongly believe that curtailed Net Freedoms and controlled Internet is taxing citizens emotionally, socially and economically. We are disappointed that the delaying tactics employed by the government for the proceedings of this case only continue to infringe upon the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Pakistan. We remain committed to the struggle and to safeguard digital rights of citizens in the country. We also remain hopeful that the honorable Lahore High Court will vindicate our position. 
The honorable judges again ordered for the Federal Minister of IT to share a signed, written statement, before they propose to reach a decision on Thursday, March 13, 2014.
News story by Daily Dawn on today's hearing is here
News story by Express Tribune on today's hearing is here
Another News story by Express Tribune on the same issue is here.
About Bytes for All, Pakistan
Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk
For more information:
Bytes for All, Pakistan
House 273, Street 17, Sector F- 10/2
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel. +92 51 2110494-95