ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday issued notice to the federation, and law, information and technology ministries in a petition challenging Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s social media policy.
After hearing the arguments, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah clubbed the plea with an ongoing case pertaining to media and the scope of Article 19 and 19 (a) of the Constitution.
Previously, a divisional bench had disapproved on-air discussions of sub-judice matters in a contempt case against talk show hosts for implying that a ‘deal’ had been made to accommodate Nawaz Sharif’s bail plea.
The petitioner’s counsel Jahangir Khan Jadoon maintained that the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 violated Article 19 and 19 (a) of the Constitution. He termed it an attempt by the government to stifle dissent and free speech.
Justice Minallah noted that most countries in the world have social media regulatory legislation.
Jadoon argued that the incumbent government’s policy empowered a national coordinator with more authority than even the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). “The coordinator can slap fines up to Rs500 million,” he informed the bench.
The counsel sought details of the criteria set for the appointment of the coordinator. He also lamented that the stakeholders were not consulted by the government before the drafting of the rules.
Justice Minallah observed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already said the government was revisiting the social media rules. To which, Jadoon requested the high court seek a status report from the relevant authorities.
The bench issued notice to the federal government, and law and IT ministries clubbed the plea with a case on media regulation and adjourned the hearing till March 7.