Update: 19th Hearing of Internet Freedom Case – morality, national security and law & order takes center stage

Lahore, Thursday, March 13, 2014:  The 19th hearing of the Bytes for All vs. The Federation of Pakistan Net Freedom case was held today in a very crowded court room with a large number of lawyers, media professionals and concerned citizens present in court. This is a petition in Lahore High Court, currently being followed by global digital rights movement for its possible impact and implications on freedom of expression, speech, assembly & the right to access information, not only in Pakistan but also in the larger Muslim world. 
The hearing started with submission and reading out of an official statement by the Federal Minister of IT, Government of Pakistan. As informed earlier by her office at the previous hearing, she was unable to attend the court in person due to security concerns. 
The statement cited a Supreme Court order to the government to block “Innocence of Muslims” video on Youtube in September 2012. Due to the incapacity of PTA to block the specific link, the whole platform was made inaccessible for citizens in Pakistan. 
Legal counsel for Bytes for All responded that these blocking orders were issued four months after upload of the video. These orders and blocking of Youtube resulted in curiosity and more traffic to the film providing it unnecessary publicity. 
The hearing continued for over two hours, and instead of the hoped for verdict today, was hijacked by blatant lies and excuses by pro-censorship lawyers bringing in morality, national security, law and order and a conservative agenda before the court. 
It was unfortunate to see government lawyers attempting to present several censorship solutions citing ‘shining’ examples of China & Saudi Arabia to be followed. 
B4A’s legal counsel maintained that any form of censorship is a cause of major concern for a society proud of its democratic and progressive traditions. He further maintained that there is no practicable way that Internet can be blocked or censored in any country in the world. 
The hearing has been postponed for a later date to be announced tomorrow. Bytes for All remains committed to protecting fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan. We further pledge to continue our struggle against all forms of censorship and Internet filtering as part of the movement for digital rights.
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 2110494-9