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Prevention of Electronic Crime Bill 2016 must pass through human rights scrutiny before endorced by Assembly

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ISLAMABAD: A lobbying session with Pakistan Pe0ples Party (PPP) was organized by Civil Society Network (PCSN), Tribal NGOs Consortium (TNC), AAs Foundation, Peace Justice and youth organizations, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and Blue Veins to discuss the content of Prevention of Electronic Crime Bill 2015 which has been approved by the Standing Committee on Information and Technology and is about to be presented in the national assembly soon. While some sections of this Bill, identifies and attempts to counter the crimes using cyber space, others try to restrict cyber space as a medium of free expression at the cost of fundamental rights of the citizens.

The Government of Pakistan has stated that the PECB is intended to protect the freedom of expression. While the civil society applauds the Pakistani government for aiming to protect the freedom of expression, stakeholders around Pakistan are concerned that the PECB, in its current form, contains provisions that violate international standards of the freedom of expression and the right to privacy.

During the session Qamar Zaman Kaira, Central Information Secretary, Senator Rubina  Khalid and Senator Sayed Ghani received  briefing and recommendations from the  digital rights experts, lawyers, media representatives and other stakeholders.

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Qamar Zaman Kaira  said  “Pakistan Peoples Party stand with the interest and right of the citizens of Pakistan. Government must improve the content of the Bill before it receives endorsement of the Assembly and bring laws to protect data and privacy of the internet users. This law can have several negative impacts on the freedoms of expression in Pakistan. It is the right of the civil society to thrive and grow”

Senator Saeed Ghani who is also member of the Standing committee of law and justice of Senate  said ” The Bill before the National Assembly has failed to address the serious concerns expressed by civil society. As such, the Bill, if adopted in a current form, could result in serious violations of human rights, such as the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The debate on the floor of the National Assembly should be an opportunity to point out the flaws of this bill and to reiterate the bill is not fit for purpose”

Nighat Dad a Digital Rights Expert while expressing her views on the occasion said” before this bill is tabled the ministry of Information and Technology should work to formulate a plan of action to explain the implementation strategy and train the enforcement authorities and judiciary to fully understand cyber space.

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Uzma Ushu from AAs foundation said  “Govt of Pakistan and all legislators in National and Provincial assemblies must give priority to human rights, rights of the citizen and consumer protection during legislative process. She called on Govt not to pass the bill in haste and must take necessary measures to ensure human rights are protected after its implementation.

The participants demanded  the Government to ensure basic protections on the ground for citizens’ rights before enactment of this bill and also to review the bill within the globally accepted human rights framework with the purpose of ensuring protection of fundamental rights, instead of compromising them through potential abuse inherent in the current framing of the draft bill.

Mr. Qamar Naseem on behalf of the organizers in his concluding remarks stated that “All stake holders in Pakistan including political party’s representatives, political activities, bloggers, IT industry, civil society and media are concerned about the content of the prevention of Electronic Crime Bill 2016 in its current form and strongly believe that there is need to revisit the bill in the human rights frame work”.

Taimur Kamal Coordinator of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) at the end of the program handed over a position paper to Qamar Zaman Kaira which contains the civil society recommendations.

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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