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[liberationtech] Pakistan: Civil Society Demand Transparency From IT Ministry on Proposal for URL filtering and Blocking

Sana Saleem sana at
Thu Feb 23 23:45:14 PST 2012

Hi, Please find below press release we issued yesterday, online now. Apart
from the press release, we have sent out letters to the ministry, written
to allies in academia, research organizations and businesses. But we still
need help in getting contact details of internet filtering firms. We have
issued  letters to a few requesting they co-operate by not bidding in the
proposal.  Can anyone help with contact details of the firms?
 find link to the press release here:

Press Release: 22/2/2012



Contact: Sana Saleem
CEO- Bolo Bhi
Email: sana at <>

*Civil Society Demand Transparency From IT Ministry on Proposal for URL
filtering and Blocking*

*Press Release*

On Wednesday, the 22nd of February, the ICT R&D Fund under the Ministry of
Information Technology (MoIT), announced through newspapers and on their
website, a request for proposal (RFP) for national “URL filtering and
blocking system”. As an organization with core focus on policy, we at *Bolo
Bhi*, feel this is worrisome.

In Pakistan, only over 20 million out of 187 million people have access to
the internet. Despite limited access the internet has brought positive
benefits to Pakistan through economic growth, education, entrepreneurship
and cultural sharing. The ICT R&D Fund was developed to further the use of
ICTs and promote research in the field. It has been involved in doing that
actively and therefore an announcement that is contrary to the progress and
development of ICT’s from the same organization, comes as a shock.

At a time when political parties, media, civil society and businesses have
been engaging to promote the use of ICT, a national filtering and blocking
system will have repercussions.

The proposal invites academia, businesses and researchers to apply. However
it is ironic that the decision of taking such an initiative came without
consulting either. The ways in which this will affect the state of the
internet is deeply worrying. Besides slowing down the internet
considerably, it would negatively impact each one of the sectors the
proposal wishes to pursue as partners. The proposal mentions that internet
in Pakistan is relatively free – that is false. Pakistan Telecommunication
Authority (PTA) has been actively involved in blocking and filtering
content online and has thus far been successful, under the guidance and
direction of the Ministry of IT. We feel that for successful implementation
of a policy at all levels, transparency is crucial. We are a functioning
democracy and therefore it is important to have stakeholders on board that
could guide and assist on a policy before such a decision is made.

We have sent a letter to the Ministry of IT and the CEO of the National ICT
R&D Fund, to ensure transparency in the process and answer some crucial

The internet has increasingly become a tool for diplomacy. Countries have
used it as a strong tool for PR and others have made use of it to advance
tourism, business & economic growth, governance and entrepreneurship. At a
time when we as a country are struggling to counter a popular narrative
about us, further limiting the sphere would portray us as a grim
totalitarian state, which is simply untrue. Elsewhere, we have seen
governments supporting the internet and reaping the economic rewards.
Malaysia, for instance are focusing primarily on building the internet
ecosystem and getting small businesses online — and a recent study by
McKinsey found the Internet contributed 4.1% to Malaysia’s GDP. We ought to
follow examples of countries like Malaysia that have been effectively using
internet and media as a PR tool, and not totalitarian states that continue
to function in an information black hole and are seen as just that.

We request the Ministry of IT and the national ICT R&D Fund to reconsider
their decision of pursuing such a rigorous filtering and blocking system,
for the state of the internet, for businesses, academia, research and the
innumerable platforms that will inevitably be affected by this initiative.
We don’t believe the internet should be a free for all; there are limits to
content but a blanket filtering of up to ’50 million URLs’ with no
transparency is not the answer. We are a functional democracy and in the
presence of stakeholders and experts we demand the ICT R&D Fund and the
Ministry of IT consult every sector before moving forward with such an

 For more information please contact Sana Saleem
CEO Bolo Bhi, at sana at

Chief Operating Officer
Bolo Bhi
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