Pakistan: Blocking information channels can never be a solution, it is always a problem!

Islamabad, November 25, 2017: Bytes for All, Pakistan (B4A) is extremely concerned over the complete information blackout in the country and demands the government to immediately restore unfettered access to internet, social media platforms, media channels and mobile services, where network shutdown is being imposed. 

Earlier today, in an unprecedented censorship move, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued directives intimating news channels to stop live coverage of ongoing security operation against a religious group’s sit-in at Faizabad, Rawalpindi citing Section 8(8) of Electronic Media Code of Conduct. According to the PEMRA code, live coverage of any security operation is prohibited unless warranted by the security agency in-charge of the operation.

As per reports, immediately after issuance of the directives, PEMRA started shutting down all the news channels across the country resulting in a massive information blackout. The situation further worsened, when the scope of the crackdown was extended against information spread over the internet with blocking of popular social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others.

This massive information blackout is unprecedented in the country’s history, where 210 million citizens have been denied the rights to access information and freedom of expression, speech and opinion.

“Disconnecting citizens and denying their rights to access information can never be a proportionate response to the unstable security situation of the country. Rather this situation requires smooth and uninterrupted connectivity and access to information facilitating citizens’ access to emergency services, enabling them to move freely and safely around, and remain connected with their loved ones,” said the country director Bytes for All, Shahzad Ahmad. 

Bytes For All believes that in the age of technology, connectivity and unrestricted speech are the only appropriate solutions to take the country out of ongoing socio-political chaos. Information blackout, suspending communication means and denying fundamental rights of the citizens can’t be the solutions of such problems in a democratic society.

Bytes for All, Pakistan calls upon the government and state authorities to refrain from violent crackdown and imposition of unjust, disproportionate actions in the developing heightened political situation to avoid further panic and chaos among citizens. 

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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