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[liberationtech] Pakistan: PTA’s alleged persistent pursuit of a URL filtration and blocking system is not acceptable

Sana Saleem sana at bolobhi.org
Wed Jun 20 08:48:22 PDT 2012


Hi all,

Sharing this with caution. Since the liberationtech community played a
crucial role in working with Pakistani civil society in pressuring the
Pakistan Government to back out of the URL Filtration System. *Please note
we are following up on the situation, moving with caution, but since a
court case is involved the statement has been issued in light of legal
requirements. Notices have been issued to PTA, Ministry of IT and the
Government. *

Statement Link (See
here)<http://bolobhi.org/press-release-public-statements/press-releases/ptas-alleged-persistent-pursuit-of-a-url-filtration-and-blocking-system-is-not-acceptable/>

*Please note that this is an unconfirmed report but from a reliable source,
we are following the situation and will be publishing confirmed
reports<http://bolobhi.org/>
 immediately. *

*Karachi 20th June 2012:*  We received information from a reliable source
that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued a notification
to other government departments announcing the installation of a filtering
system. This has in turn been sent to some IT companies. As citizens
concerned about internet freedom and free flow of information, this
unconfirmed news is of grave concern to us.

With great caution, we would like to share an update on this situation: The
exact words in the email are pasted below.

“Please note that PTA has deployed an automatic filtering system and is
directly blocking sites deemed as disseminating objectionable content. Our
upstream providers are no longer managing this process. We regret any
inconvenience this may have caused you.”

The content in the email suggests that the ISPs will no longer be
responsible for blocking websites and that the PTA will now be able to
block sites at will.

The content in the email suggests that the Internet Service Providers
(ISPs) will no longer be responsible for blocking websites and that the PTA
will now be able to block sites at will.

*We are currently working in to verifying this news from various other
sources. We are in communication with government officials who have
committed to update us on the issue. We issue this statement with caution.*

As a reminder:

On the 17th of April 2012, seven individuals* through their advocates
Haider Waheed and Basil Nabi Malik, petitioned the High Court of Sindh at
Karachi challenging the arbitrary and random acts of the PTA in
blocking/censoring and restricting access to various websites in violation
of the fundamental rights of the owners of the websites/online forums as
well as the public at large, and without affording the aggrieved persons an
opportunity of being heard or due notice.

The Honorable High Court of Sindh issued notice to the Federation of
Pakistan, through the Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and
Telecommunication, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, through
its Chairman, and furthermore ordered the PTA said not to block any website
other than in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan
Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996.

A letter to the PTA has already been issued demanding a clarification on
the issue and we would like to reassert that any steps by the PTA to pursue
ad hoc blocking will be a violation of the court stay order.

If true, this is a set-back to the free-flow of information and internet
freedom in Pakistan. Despite the Ministry of IT making a commitment to
Bushra Gohar, Member of National Assembly,the PTA’s persistent pursuit of a
URL filtration and blocking system is extremely disappointing and shows
disregard for democratic values.



*Bolo Bhi means ‘Speak up’, we are an organization with focus on advocacy,
policy and research. Our focus areas  <http://areas/>include human rights
with focus on gender and minority rights, internet freedom and privacy. We
believe it is crucial to bridge the gap between rights advocates,
policy makers,
 media and average citizens. Bridging the gap enables collective strength
and concentrated focus on the areas that require attention. *
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