Federal Attorney General Barrister Farogh Naseem called on Sunday to end the spread of “fake news” and said no one will be exempt from threats under the revised Electronic Crimes Prevention Act (Peca).
In an interview with Karachi’s press, Naseem said spreading fake news will be treated as a recognizable crime after the law changes go into effect. He “will also be a non-bail crime punishable by up to six months in prison.”
The minister’s comment comes one day after the federal cabinet approved the 2016 presidential ordinance to amend Peca. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said approval of the ordinance was requested through circulation.
At a press conference, Nasim argued that the revised law would help curb fake news. “All that happened in the past is gone, and now we are on the right track.”
The Minister explained that the law is primarily directed at public figures or public officials, and complaints of misinformation or false news may be raised by the general public.
For example, he said, “Suppose fake news is spreading about a veteran movie star named Nadim. There is no need to go to Nadim herself and file a complaint. Instead, anyone can file a complaint with the relevant authorities and file a complaint. “He said. According to the law, it must be completed within six months.”
The minister cited several recent cases in which some high-ranking officials have been targeted by misinformation. He told former Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed a few weeks ago that he regretted the use of dirty language.
“Similarly, the misinformation about the First Lady made her heart pound. [with her husband] Leading her out of her home… How can you spread such a false story?” the pastor wondered.
“I can’t believe there’s a government day,” Nasim said when asked if PTI was introducing a new law to prevent competitors from taking over when PTI’s tenure was coming to an end.
“If we are in the opposition, this law will definitely not be in our favor, so it is not correct to think that the government will return soon,” he said.
Minister Lee was also asked earlier this month that he was “disappointed” that his ministry did not take first place when the prime minister awarded certificates of merit to several ministries.
Naseem reacted negatively, adding that MQM-Pakistan is not competing “at all” with any ministries.
Debate over new regulations
Peca was passed by the National Assembly in 2016 amid protests from the opposition.
The PML-N, which was affiliated with the government at the time, mobilized a majority to dismiss the controversial bill. Meanwhile, opposition parties have criticized bills that give the administration comprehensive powers that can be abused by anyone and further restrict freedom of expression in the country.
The bill states that parody or satire-based websites and social media accounts can be prosecuted for ‘counterfeiting’, which makes it a crime to operate a website or send information to ‘counterfeit sources’. It has also authorized Federal Investigation Agency officials to unlock computers, cell phones or other devices that may be needed for crime or criminal investigation purposes, and that defamation will be treated as a punishable crime. said.
In November 2020, the Tehreek-i-Insaf government of Pakistan enacted a social media law under Peca which was criticized by digital rights activists, Pakistani Internet service providers and the Asian Internet Alliance.
The tech companies also threaten to shut down services in Pakistan unless the rules are revised, stating that the rules make it difficult to continue operations.
This rule has also been challenged by the Islamabad High Court (IHC). In one of the hearings on the petition, the Attorney General assured the IHC that the government was ready to review the rules.
In March 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan formed an inter-ministerial committee to review controversial social media rules.
The committee prepared regulations by August and passed the Cabinet Legislative Notice Committee on September 23rd.
The Federal Cabinet approved the amendments to the Digital Media Regulations on September 29, and the Ministry of Information and Communications announced it on November 14.
Pursuant to the Removal and Blocking (Procedures, Supervision and Protection) Rules of Illegal Online Content, 2021, telecommunications regulators in their country may block a website or platform, subject to court and federal directives, or in accordance with any law.
In a statement issued at the time, IT and Telecommunications Minister Aminul Haque said the rules require social media companies to comply with Pakistani laws and the rights of social media users.
He said live streaming of extremist, terrorist, hateful, obscene and violent content would be banned and “social media companies would be held responsible for removing content that goes against Pakistan’s integrity and defense.”
The rules will also punish the spread of “immoral and obscene content,” Haque said.
“No negative content about any individual will be uploaded,” Haque said, adding that uploads of anyone’s private life would also be banned.
Other items prohibited under the amended rules include “content contrary to Pakistan’s cultural and moral tendencies” and content that “destroys” morals and may harm a child’s mental and physical development.
The minister said the rules would apply to all social media outlets, including Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Google. He added that the social media company should set up an office in Pakistan “as soon as possible” after the notice was issued.
Social media companies were required to register with the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) within three months of the law’s enforcement and appoint a Pakistan-based certified compliance officer and grievance officer within the same period. These officers must deal with the complaint within 7 working days.
The rule also directs social media companies to establish offices in Pakistan, preferably Islamabad, “as far as possible and when possible” under the direction of the PTA. Previously, there was a stipulation that a company had to set up an office within nine months.
Internet companies also criticized the amendment, noting that the most problematic provisions remain in the new draft.