The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to present a senior officer at the next hearing of a petition filed against the TikTok ban, calling on the authority to explain why the banning order should not be suspended.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah presided over the hearing and issued a three-page written order after hearing the initial arguments.
The petitioner, who stated in the petition that he was a well-known athlete, argued that TikTok provides a platform for talented Pakistani citizens to exercise their right of expression and to demonstrate creativity.
“The authority is directed to nominate a senior officer to appear before this Court on the next date fixed and explain why proceedings may not be initiated for violating the directions given by this Court in the aforementioned judgments and why the order of banning ‘TikTok’ app may not be suspended,” the IHC judge said in his written order.
The court noted that the questions raised by the petitioner needed consideration. It called on Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (FUJ) President Mazhar Abbas, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman and former Information Minister Javed Jabbar to aid the judiciary over the alleged misuse of PTA powers and “assist the court on the question of violation of fundamental constitutional rights.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the ban on the video-sharing app TikTok by the PTA was challenged in the Sindh High Court (SHC).
The petitioner had argued that there are 20 million users of TikTok in Pakistan and the ban is a violation of the Constitution’s Article 19.
According to Article 19, every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.
The petitioner stated that whoever is misusing the app should be penalised and his ID should be blocked, rather than placing a blanket ban on TikTok. “It is unreasonable to block the entire application,” he added.
He requested the SHC intervene and lift the ban on the video-sharing app. The petition was accepted for hearing on October 15.
Meanwhile, the video-sharing app released a press release on Saturday saying that had “received no communication” from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) despite the regulator’s acknowledgement and appreciation of the company’s efforts to comply with the country’s laws and to increase its content moderation.
TikTok said it was “sad that our users and creators in Pakistan are still unable to access TikTok, more than one week after our services were blocked by the PTA”.
TikTok also said that it had “made concerted efforts to address questions from the government of Pakistan around our content moderation process, including significantly increasing the capacity of our local language content moderation team”.
“After TikTok was blocked in Pakistan, we continued to engage with the PTA to demonstrate our commitment to comply with local laws and further enhance our content moderation capacity. Though the PTA acknowledged and appreciated these efforts, our services remain blocked in the country and we have received no communication from PTA,” the statement added.
Th statement further added that it was continuing to engage with the government and hoped that “our productive dialogue with the PTA can bring assurance of the government’s commitment to a stable, enabling environment.”