PECB 2015: Federal govt urged to retool cybercrimes bill | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

PECB 2015: Federal govt urged to retool cybercrimes bill

Pakistan Press Foundation

PESHAWAR: The Federal Ministry of Information Technology’s move to stall fresh debate on the cybercrimes bill has disappointed stakeholders, especially civil society associations and NGOs.

Expressing grievances, members belonging to Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) and Tribal NGOs Consortium described the federal government’s move as a bid to affect the right of privacy and freedom of expression of the public. They demanded authorities retool the bill in the best interest of the stakeholders and the public.

Briefing the media at Peshawar Press Club, Blue Veins Programme Coordinator Qamar Naseem said, “There is a need for the government to re-draft the bill taking into consideration globally accepted human rights frameworks with the purpose of protecting fundamental rights, not compromising them.”

Taimur Kamal, coordinator at PCSN, said, “The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2015 does not protect the rights of citizens who use the internet and social media. Instead, this bill affects the right to privacy and freedom of expression and violates the Constitution of Pakistan as well as international treaties the country is signatory to.”

According to Said Zar Ali from the Tribal NGOs Consortium, “The PECB, in fact, criminalises the disclosure of information made in the public interest and is no less than a modern version of the draconian Official Secret Act 1923.”

Restricting accountability

He added, “In the absence of right to information legislation at the federal level, the law will further suppress the freedom of expression and would result in inefficiency and corruption in the public sector.”

Ali said, “While there is no legislation to ensure timely access to information to journalists at the federal level, the bill further restricts journalists to ‘sources’ in public departments. This will make investigative reporting hard as it will be impossible explore malpractices and corruption in public sector,”
he added.

Earlier, opposition developed over the cybercrime bill with virtually all political groupings announcing their intention to oppose the current draft when presented at the National Assembly. They cited it as a threat to the freedom of expression.

Several parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl were upset over not being made part of consultations at the time of the bill’s drafting.

Though the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 was passed by the NA Standing Committee on Information Technology & Telecommunications earlier this year, it has not been presented before the NA
for approval.

Express Tribune