ISLAMABAD – The online link to a new independent study that places Pakistan among the top four countries, where people have been intimidated silenced, banned, murdered, for writing about sensitive subjects on the web, was blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Thursday.
The annual ‘Freedom on the Net’ that is based on an assessment of internet freedom in 65 countries, accounting for 87 percent of internet users worldwide, can no longer be accessed in Pakistan after the Information Ministry and the PTA deemed it against Pakistan’s national interest hence a clear breach of Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2015, commonly known as the cybercrime law.
The IT ministry maintains that the research declaring Pakistan “not free” for a sixth consecutive year, noting internet freedom has deteriorated due to violence and intimidation related to social media activists, is a clear attempt to malign Pakistan.
“Saying that there are internet shutdowns, a problematic cybercrime law, and cyberattacks against government critics which contribute deterioration, and indeed that political speech online is vulnerable to restriction as Pakistan enters an election year in 2018, is a shameless campaign against Pakistan, which believes in all kinds of freedom,” Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said while talking to The Dependent.
“Hence, in accordance with Pakistan’s cybercrime law, the PTA has blocked the link.”
Digital rights activists in the country have understandably moved into action, beginning with creating new social media profiles, after the previous ones were found blocked on Thursday.