Cybercrime bill rushed through committee despite criticism

On 17 September, 2015 Pakistan Standing Committee of National Assembly on Information Technology second time hurriedly cleared the draft of the controversial “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015” and sent it to the National Assembly for final approval despite widespread criticism by freedom of expression and civic liberties groups.

According to the draft bill, it is considered a crime to take a picture in a public place, capturing someone in the background without their consent. Children above 12 and fewer than 18 years can also be booked for such crimes even if they did it unintentionally or accidentally.

Opposition political parties and NGOs believe the proposed bill was too harsh and curbed human rights besides giving wide powers to law enforcement agencies. Representatives from the industry argued that the bill would harm their businesses.

Under the draft bill sending text messages without the permission of the receiver fall in criminalized activity or commenting against government on social media would be punishable with fines or imprisonment. The bill gives the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) the powers to block objectionable content and websites.

Member of National Assembly, Shazia Marri argued to change some clauses as draft bill that seemed to curb freedom of speech. Marri maintained that access to information was a fundamental right and its responsibility rested with the state. `Giving powers to an authority to block access to information is not just” she said.

Pakistan Press Foundation