Rays of Hope – Updates on our Petition in the Lahore High Court, Pakistan

Islamabad, Wednesday March 27, 2013:  Bytes for All, Pakistan continuing its anti-censorship “Access Is My Right” Campaign, building citizens’ alliance against internet censorship, filtering, surveillance and advocacy for freedom of expression is seeing light at the end of Tunnel. Taking the legal route, B4A lodged a writ petition in Lahore High Court in January 2012, and we are happy to share that there has been positive outcomes.

B4A champions two different but interlinked campaigns namely Take Back The Tech and Access Is My Right to build citizens’ awareness on issues such as privacy rights, access, Internet filtering, surveillance and rampant censorship in online and offline spaces. These campaigns have now yielded significant public support from all over the country. 
Realizing the important role of YouTube and other digital media platforms during electoral process, B4A extended support by lodging an important Constitutional Petition under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan in Lahore High Court. The petition through a pro bono arrangement is now set for its third hearing on 4th April 2013 at the Lahore High Court in front of Honorable Mr. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah. 
As per the petition, B4A prayed that the bans imposed on websites were in blatant violation of the civil and political rights, especially to the Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information under the Article-19 and Article-19A of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The petition prays that these bans represent abuse of executive powers, which is unacceptable in a democracy loving society like Pakistan. Furthermore, the petition also requests the court to help get from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority a complete list of banned websites with justifications, highlighting the reasons and context behind banning of each URL.
On 26th March, at the hearing of the petition, quite a few positive outcomes were the highlight of the day. Firstly, Honorable Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, admitted the writ in his august court. At the same hearing, he advised to submit the case laws pertaining to banning of websites from Europe, the UK and the US.  B4A’s legal consul will submit all requisite material at the forthcoming hearing on 4th April 2013. Honorable Judge also ordered for a complete list of banned websites with reasons as per the petition until the next date of hearing.
On the front of civil rights movement in the country, a positive response such as this, alone, is a landmark victory. Having said that, much still needs to be done and a long way needs to be covered before actual victory is achieved in terms of restoration of citizens’ right to expression and access to information, with the opening of YouTube and removal of all politically motivated bans in Pakistani cyberspace, as the first stepping stone.
B4A is determined and committed to continue the struggle of upholding the civil and political rights of the citizens of Pakistan at every forum possible. We will succeed only with the continued help and support from people of Pakistan and larger human rights movement in the country and from all over the world.
Download the Petition from 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 (and please note the change in the office address):
Shahzad Ahmad
Bytes for All, Pakistan
House 273, Street 17, Sector F- 10/2, Islamabad, Pakistan
Cell. +92 51 2110494-95