=> LAHORE, Jan 18: South Asia Media Commission (SAMC)
LAHORE, Jan 18: South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) on Friday criticised a presidential decree on cyber crime, which, it said, would hamper citizen journalism.
Promulgated secretly on Jan 10, 2008, and in force since Dec 31, 2007, the Electronic Crime Ordinance of 2007 encompasses 18 offences that carry severe punishments, including life imprisonment and death penalty. A special cell within the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will be tasked with investigating and prosecuting while a seven-member tribunal will try offences under the ordinance. Information technology professionals and legal experts have criticised the draft ordinance.
“Against the backdrop of the use of Internet and cell phones to criticise authorities or send calls for rallies, the ordinance is liable to be interpreted as a drastic measure aimed at putting curbs on civil rights,” N. Ram, SAMC chairperson, and Najam Sethi, secretary general, said in a statement endorsed by South Asian Free Media Association Secretary General Imtiaz Alam.
“The law should not obstruct freedom of information. The way the ordinance defines cyber crime and terrorist intent allows it to be grossly misused,” the statement issued by the commission’s regional coordinator Husain Naqi, states.
“Sending a message to alarm or frighten comes under the law. Cyber stalking is defined vaguely to incriminate anyone using electronic communication to coerce, intimidate and harass any person. Spamming, defined as transmission of harmful, misleading or unsolicited message without the permission of the recipient, is also punishable,” said the media release by the regional body formed last year to monitor media rights violations.
“This law prevents any blogger from posting photos or video showing a person(s) who have not given their consent,” the media watchdog said.
“Instead of waiting for an elected parliament to pass a law encompassing a body of crimes which is altogether new after proper deliberations, its enforcement with effect from 31 December 2007 is quite surprising.”