Pakistan Press Foundation: ‘Blocking mobile internet service endangers public safety’
Pakistan authorities urged to ensure access to information at a time of political uncertainty following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
This statement was originally published on pakistanpressfoundation.org on 10 May 2023.
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is concerned about the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority’s (PTA) decision to block mobile internet services following the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan on May 9. Citizens in Pakistan faced the closure of mobile broadband services and access to various social media websites following the arrest. This move during protests and political uncertainty is not only an infringement on citizens’ right to access information and free expression but also counterproductive in terms of public safety.
When citizens are particularly in need of staying updated or contacting others, shutting off access to mobile data services and social media platforms is likely to create challenges in terms of public safety, spreading fear and panic. The authorities must ensure that access to information is not restricted. PPF urges the PTA to reverse its decision and immediately lift the ban on mobile internet services.
As per press reports, a spokesperson for the telecommunication authority confirmed that after the former premier’s arrest, videos of protests were circulated on social media, after which the mobile internet services were blocked. The report added that the PTA spokesperson did not confirm reports of social media platforms being blocked.
However, social media users experienced difficulties in accessing various websites, including Twitter and YouTube. Such closures act as a hindrance to the flow of information. Social media platforms are a vital source of news dissemination and information gathering. By cutting off access to these platforms, the public is left in the dark about key developments, particularly when political sentiments are running high, and protests are taking place.
On May 10, the PTA said that internet services across Pakistan would remain suspended for an “indefinite period,” Geo reported.
Such actions are a danger to public safety and a blatant attack on the public’s right to free expression and access to information. It is necessary for the telecommunication authority to not only unblock services but also provide clarity on the nature of the block and why it was put in place. PPF urges the PTA to reverse and ensure complete access to social media websites and broadband mobile services.