Bytes for All calls for civil society participation in drafting cyber crime legislation in Pakistan

Islamabad, June 07, 2012: As per agreed Declaration of Principles by the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), Tunis Agenda for the Information Society and the ongoing Internet governance processes, it is a globally accepted norm that for any Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy or local laws related to the cyberspace or Internet, the governments will use a multi-stakeholder process, which ensures active consultation and participation by the civil society, private sector and other relevant stakeholders.

We have learnt that the Government of Pakistan through Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) is working on reviving and restructuring the cyber crime law which lapsed in 2009. The stakeholders, who are being consulted in this regard, are corporate companies such as telecom operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and governmental organizations such as Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Unfortunately, within this list, no representative civil society organization holds an opinion. As an organization that represents the civil society in Pakistan in monitoring and restoring the state of human rights pertaining to ICTs in line with international benchmarks, we demand consultative representation in the formulation of this critically important legislation.

Pakistan has a history of draconian cyber crime legislation in the past, and we are extremely concerned that a poor, vaguely written cyber crime law can have hugely negative human rights implications and can also be used as a tool against the citizens to curb their freedom of expression online.

Just before forthcoming general elections, when the sitting parliament is not considering any serious policies or laws, hasty work on cyber crime legislation is alarming and may not be beneficial for the citizens at large. In the worst case scenario, this law is bound to be draconian, anti-people, government centered and open to misinterpretations in connection with all democratic processes, norms and principles.

We urge Ministry of Information Technology and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to follow proper multi-stakeholder process in drafting the proposed legislation by organizing participatory, inclusive consultations following principles of openness and critical feedback by citizens before arriving at final draft.

Bytes for All, Pakistan, would not only like to participate in such consultations but will also help the process in terms of organizing consultative process, coordination and submission of recommendations by the larger civil society on the law under discussion.

There are several examples that such important legislations developed in silos have turned out to be disastrous, anti-democracy and against international human rights standards and principles.

We look forward to a multi-stakeholder process and  more inclusive approaches for a pro-people cyber crime law in Pakistan!

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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
 
For more information:

Shahzad Ahmad
Cell. +92 333 5236060
info@bytesforall.pk and www.bytesforall.pk