Sindh High Court Seeks Explanation for Election Day Internet Suspension

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has demanded explanations from the information technology and communication,  interior ministries and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) regarding the suspension of internet services on election day on February 08 in various parts of the country during the court hearing on February 21. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to suspend internet services and sought detailed reasons for the action.

According to Dawn , addressing the authorities, SHC Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi questioned, Why are you making a spectacle of yourself in front of the world?and directed them to restore internet services and social media platforms nationwide.

These remarks were made during the court’s hearing of three petitions challenging the suspension of internet services. Lawyers Jibran Nasir and Hyder Raza, along with the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, filed petitions against various ministries and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, alleging obstruction of access to social media platforms and disruption of mobile internet and broadband services leading up to the February 8 polls. 

According to Business Recorder , during a hearing SHC ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to submit a report on the necessity and legality of the action. The petition argued that the shutdown hindered the dissemination of information and restricted citizens’ ability to participate in the electoral process. This development came as the court expressed concerns over the impact of internet shutdowns on democratic processes in the country.

On another front, the counsel representing the federal government stated that the decision to suspend internet services was based on recommendations from provincial governments. In response, the chief justice directed inquiries toward the Sindh government lawyer, who denied issuing orders for the shutdown, requesting time to furnish a detailed response. 

The court adjourned the hearing until March 5 to allow for further deliberation.

A nationwide suspension of cellular services occurred on February 8, coinciding with the voting day for millions of Pakistanis. According to Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) which condemned the shutdown of mobile connectivity and data services on election day throughout Pakistan. This action had raised concerns regarding the legitimacy of the entire electoral process and prompted inquiries into the government’s intentions behind keeping citizens uninformed.

 

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The post Sindh High Court Seeks Explanation for Election Day Internet Suspension first appeared on Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).

Sindh High Court Seeks Explanation for Election Day Internet Suspension

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has demanded explanations from the information technology and communication,  interior ministries and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) regarding the suspension of internet services on election day on February 08 in various parts of the country during the court hearing on February 21. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to suspend internet services and sought detailed reasons for the action.

According to Dawn , addressing the authorities, SHC Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi questioned, Why are you making a spectacle of yourself in front of the world?and directed them to restore internet services and social media platforms nationwide.

These remarks were made during the court’s hearing of three petitions challenging the suspension of internet services. Lawyers Jibran Nasir and Hyder Raza, along with the Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, filed petitions against various ministries and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, alleging obstruction of access to social media platforms and disruption of mobile internet and broadband services leading up to the February 8 polls. 

According to Business Recorder , during a hearing SHC ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to submit a report on the necessity and legality of the action. The petition argued that the shutdown hindered the dissemination of information and restricted citizens’ ability to participate in the electoral process. This development came as the court expressed concerns over the impact of internet shutdowns on democratic processes in the country.

On another front, the counsel representing the federal government stated that the decision to suspend internet services was based on recommendations from provincial governments. In response, the chief justice directed inquiries toward the Sindh government lawyer, who denied issuing orders for the shutdown, requesting time to furnish a detailed response. 

The court adjourned the hearing until March 5 to allow for further deliberation.

A nationwide suspension of cellular services occurred on February 8, coinciding with the voting day for millions of Pakistanis. According to Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) which condemned the shutdown of mobile connectivity and data services on election day throughout Pakistan. This action had raised concerns regarding the legitimacy of the entire electoral process and prompted inquiries into the government’s intentions behind keeping citizens uninformed.

 

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The post Sindh High Court Seeks Explanation for Election Day Internet Suspension first appeared on Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).

Twitter Remains Unreachable for Fourth Consecutive Day in Pakistan

Twitter continues to remain inaccessible in Pakistan for the fourth consecutive day, prompting concerns over freedom of expression and communication rights in the country. The disruption of the popular social media platform, which began on February 17, has caused frustration among users and drawn international attention, with the United States urging Pakistan to ensure unrestricted access to the internet.

According to Dawn, the platform has been inaccessible since Satur­day when former Rawal­pindi commissioner Liaquat Chattha held a press conference and accused the chief election commissioner and chief justice of being involved in rigging the Feb 8 general elections.

In a recent update shared on X, NetBlocks reported that access to X has experienced intermittent restoration on certain Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The organization noted that despite these intermittent improvements, X/Twitter remains inaccessible for numerous users in Pakistan, surpassing the 72-hour mark of restriction. This incident marks the longest among several instances of internet censorship observed during the election period, according to NetBlocks metrics.

Dawn reached out to a spokesperson from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for comment. However, no response had been received.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in a statement condemned the ongoing disruption of social media and internet services in Pakistan and demanded the immediate restoration of X. PFUJ President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Arshad Ansari expressed deep concern over the prolonged suspension of internet access and X, emphasizing that such actions pose a grave threat to freedom of expression and free speech as enshrined in the Constitution. Stressing the indispensable role of internet and social media as primary sources of information globally, they urged authorities to promptly restore uninterrupted internet services across the country.

Meanwhile, the United States, through its embassy in Islamabad, has called for unrestricted access to the internet in Pakistan, emphasizing the importance of free flow of information for a vibrant democracy. The statement underscores the international scrutiny the situation has garnered, as concerns mount over the implications for freedom of expression and access to information, 24 News reported.

According to Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), this recent disruption of access to X has sparked concerns over the infringement of citizens’ rights to free speech and information, particularly during significant political moments. This incident, starting from February 17 and noted for its intermittent continuation, has yet to be addressed by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority with a formal explanation. The restriction impacts the essential flow of information, especially critical in the post-election phase amid political uncertainty, highlighting a disturbing trend towards limiting digital freedoms.

 

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Once again, access to X disrupted in Pakistan, cutting off citizens’ right to freely access information; authorities must provide a credible explanation

Once again, access to the internet in Pakistan was restricted with the disruption in access to X, formerly Twitter, cutting off citizens’ right to freely access information. The disruption in access began on February 17 and has intermittently continued to be experienced for a third day on February 19. The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), which has not provided any statement, must provide a credible explanation for this disruption and the continued use of closing and disrupting access to social media platforms such as X in the midst of key political developments.

Access to information online must be guaranteed, particularly in the post-election period when there remains much uncertainty about the political future of the country, emphasizing the need for citizens to be able to access information. 

This now seems to have become a regular practice of disrupting or closing access to social media platforms or the internet. It is akin to restricting free speech in Pakistan and undermines citizens’ right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution. 

On February 17, users in Pakistan faced intermittent disruption in access to the social media platform. According to Netblocks, metrics showed a national-scale disruption. On February 18, Netblocks provided an update that X had been restricted for 24 hours.

For a third day, on February 19, users once again faced difficulty accessing X. According to Dawn, citing Downdetector, an outage was experienced in the morning around 10:30 am and, after being restored around noon, once again were disrupted after 1 pm.

In a statement shared on X, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said: “It also infringes on people’s right to democratic decision making, information, and expression. This practice must stop immediately.”

The new disruption in access to X comes after the closure of mobile connectivity and data services on election day on February 8 across Pakistan that, cast doubts on the credibility of the entire election and raised questions about the government’s motives for leaving citizens in the dark.

In the lead-up to the general elections, the country had also seen multiple disruptions in internet access. Recurrent disruptions to access social media were observed in December and January. While there was no official confirmation about the cause of the disruption, they took place when the Pakistan Tehreek i Insaf was hosting virtual events.

 

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Rawalpindi Police Official Suspended for Alleged Assault on Journalists

A police official in Rawalpindi has been suspended pending an inquiry following allegations of assaulting journalists covering a protest, as reported by Dawn on February 14, 2024.

The suspension came after a police official was charged for reportedly torturing journalists during a protest held by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in front of the Divisional Election Commission Rawalpindi on Sunday.

Regional Police Officer Syed Khurram Ali and City Police Officer (CPO) Syed Khalid Hamdani initiated an inquiry into the incident after it gained attention. SP Rawalpindi Faisal Saleem was appointed as the inquiry officer.

SP Saleem’s inquiry found Yasir Khan, a constable stationed at Police Station Pirwadhai, guilty of displaying extreme arrogance and disobeying senior orders regarding the dispersal of protesters. This behavior was deemed as gross misconduct and inefficiency.

In his report, SP Saleem highlighted Khan’s irresponsible, negligent, and careless conduct, indicating his apparent guilt of misconduct and inefficiency.

Additionally, City Police Officer Syed Khalid Hamdani announced the posting of three Station House Officers (SHOs) in the Rawalpindi district on Thursday.

Inspector Sajjad Ul Hassan has been appointed as the new SHO of Kallar Syedan, replacing Subtain ul Hasnain, who has been shifted to SHO Pirwadhai. Sub-inspector Tayyab Zaheer Baig has been assigned as the SHO of Waris Khan police station.

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Federal Information Minister Faces Backlash for Physical Altercation with BBC Reporter During Interview

A video capturing Federal Caretaker Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Murtaza Solangi, in a physical altercation with BBC journalist Mobeen Azhar during an interview has sparked controversy. Azhar’s probing questions on press freedom in Pakistan led to the tense exchange, raising concerns about journalistic integrity and government transparency.

A video circulating online has ignited widespread condemnation of Federal Caretaker Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Murtaza Solangi, following his aggressive confrontation with BBC reporter Mobeen Azhar during an interview. The incident unfolded as Azhar pressed Solangi on issues concerning press freedom within Pakistan, a website ProPakistani reported.

In the footage, Azhar is seen introducing himself to Solangi before broaching the topic of state interference with journalists. However, instead of addressing Azhar’s inquiries, Solangi swiftly accused him of coercing the interview. Tensions mounted as Solangi attempted to seize Azhar’s phone, reprimanding him to “act like a BBC journalist and not Paparazzi.”

Despite the minister’s attempts to divert the conversation, Azhar persisted with his line of questioning. Solangi then questioned whether he had granted Azhar an interview slot, to which Azhar affirmed that the minister had indeed allocated time for the discussion, further intensifying the exchange.

The altercation has triggered outrage and renewed concerns over journalistic freedoms and government accountability in Pakistan. Solangi’s conduct has drawn widespread criticism, with calls for transparency and respect for the autonomy of the press.

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Pakistan Press Foundation condemns smear campaign against journalists in Pakistan’s post-election turmoil

The Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) strongly denounces the targeted smear campaign on social media against journalists in the aftermath of their reporting on Pakistan’s recent general elections. This campaign is characterized by a deluge of abusive, offensive, and vulgar comments.

The PPF is alarmed by the intensification of cyberbullying tactics, particularly against female journalists, in the wake of electoral frustrations expressed by political entities. The online platforms, which should serve as spaces for free expression and democratic debate, are marred by harassment and intimidation. Such actions directly threaten the principles of press freedom and the safety of media personnel.

We urge all political parties and their leadership to denounce and curb such harassment campaigns against journalists unequivocally. It is imperative that a civil discourse be maintained and any disagreements with journalistic content be addressed respectfully and constructively.

In solidarity with journalists facing harassment and intimidation, we demand that relevant authorities ensure their safety and hold the perpetrators accountable. Immediate and decisive measures must be taken against those responsible for these reprehensible actions to prevent recurrence. Journalists’ safety and their right to report without fear must be upheld at all times.

In the wake of ARY News anchorperson Meher Bukhari’s tweet regarding Rana Sanaullah Khan, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), over fifty social media users have launched a barrage of attacks against the anchor. The onslaught includes a disturbing mix of vulgar and sexist comments alongside manipulated images and videos aimed at discrediting Bukhari. This digital aggression unfolded shortly after the PML-N announced on February 11th that Waseem Qadir, an independent victor from the National Assembly Constituency NA-121 Lahore, had officially joined their ranks on their official X (formerly Twitter) account.

Bukhari’s engagement in this political discourse began with her retweet of a message underscoring the value of personal dignity over loyalty to the vote. This action drew attention and was followed by a controversial move from the X account previously associated with Rana Sanaullah, now identified as @PresPMLNPunjab, which shared an old interview clip hinting at Bukhari’s involvement in media manipulation. In retaliation, Bukhari posted, and later deleted, older images of Rana post-kidnapping with a provocative caption about his electoral defeat. This exchange ignited a firestorm of criticism from PML-N supporters, who labeled Bukhari a “paid anchor” and escalated their attacks with invasive and offensive content.

Saddia Mazhar, the editor of The Reporters. pk, became the target of a severe online attack. Mazhar told PPF that her lighthearted tweet regarding the ongoing consultations between the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – sparked by news of discussions about forming a coalition government – led to a torrent of abusive messages on X. She reported that numerous accounts bombarded her with offensive and vulgar tweets, aggressively retweeting her posts. Despite her efforts to block these accounts, Mazhar continues to be plagued by a relentless influx of abusive messages.

Amir Mateen, the anchorperson for 92 News, has recently been subjected to hateful comments following his tweets critiquing the political landscape and the PML-N’s moves. In his posts, Mateen criticized the party for incorporating independent candidates and shared older videos of the party’s Chief Organizer, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, in which she can be heard against party switchers. These remarks sparked a wave of abusive comments directed against him.

 

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has expressed deep concern over an organized campaign of character assassination and threats directed at senior journalists Meher Bukhari of ARY News and Amir Mateen of 92 News by elements allegedly associated with the PML-N on social media and demanding immediate action from the leadership of the party.  

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