Sindh High Court Hears Petitions Challenging Social Media Ban | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Sindh High Court Hears Petitions Challenging Social Media Ban

Pakistan Press Foundation

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on March 20 heard petitions challenging the recent disruption of access to social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

During the proceedings, the interior ministry admitted to blocking X, citing reports from intelligence agencies. The ministry, in its comments, said the action falls under the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2021.

Several individuals and organizations, including Zarar Khuhro and other academics and journalists, lawyer Jibran Nasir, and the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, filed suits. Khuhro’s petition, filed last month, demanded the restoration of access to X. In January, Nasir filed a petition challenging restrictions on social media platforms and disruptions to internet services, arguing they aimed to hinder online political campaigning. Last year, the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, along with two others, filed petitions against mobile and internet service outages and bans on social media platforms.

The disruption began on February 17 and has continued intermittently. Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) issued a statement condemning the restriction, calling it a violation of citizens’ right to freely access information. The organization called on the authorities to provide a credible explanation for the restriction and urged them to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

Adding to these concerns, a statement by a coalition of rights activists and civil society organizations on March 13 demanded the immediate resumption of access to X.

During the hearing on March 20, the SHC directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to ensure uninterrupted internet service and avoid any “shutting down, disruption or slowing down” unless justified. The court warned that the absence of valid reasons for future restrictions could lead to legal repercussions for the authorities.

Specifically regarding X, the SHC directed the PTA to restore access to the platform “if there was no lawful justification or reasonable grounds to deny the internet access to X.” 

The court adjourned the hearing till April 17. During this time, the interior secretary is expected to file comments on the petition.

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