Mamnoon urged to veto controversial cyber-crime law
NEW YORK – The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent watchdog body, has urged Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain to veto a bill, which, it said, could allow for sweeping censorship of the internet and the prosecution of journalists.
The National Assembly approved the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 last week and sent it to President Mamnoon to sign it into law, according to press reports.
Ambiguous language in the bill would give state regulators sweeping powers to censor the internet, including material posted to social media platforms, in the name of upholding stability, security and “the glory of Islam”, the CPJ said. Penalties under the law include three years in prison and fines for “spoofing”, defined as creating a website or disseminating information online using a “counterfeit” identity with “dishonest” intent, a provision that could apply to satirical websites. Judges could also sentence those found guilty of publishing material deemed to “harm the reputation” of someone.
Section 34 of the bill would give the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority broad discretion to order the removal or censorship of information published online.
“Pakistan’s cyber-security law includes many vague and over-broad provisions that authorities could easily abuse to censor critical speech and reporting and to threaten and target journalists,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement. “We strongly urge President Mamnoon to veto this bill, and we call on legislators to ensure that any future draft cyber-security legislation contains firm and explicit press freedom protections.”