Rights Activists and Civil Society Demand Immediate Resumption of X

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Human rights activists and civil society organizations have demanded the immediate restoration of X, formerly known as Twitter, in a joint statement. They expressed grave concerns about the escalating occurrences of internet shutdowns and the blocking of social media platforms.

The joint statement issued on March 13 highlights the urgent need for the restoration of access to X, emphasizing the detrimental impact of internet shutdowns and platform blockages on freedom of expression and access to information in Pakistan.

Access to X was disrupted once again from February 17 and has intermittently continued to be experienced, cutting off citizens’ right to freely access information. This closure underscores the urgency of the activists’ demands for immediate action.

Additionally, the statement calls for reform in internet policies, urging authorities to act transparently in decisions affecting internet freedom and to repeal legal provisions enabling censorship, such as Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA). It also demands clarity on the reasons and legal basis for the recent blocking of X and other affected platforms.

Furthermore, the joint statement warns against future actions that obstruct the free flow of information and political discourse, urging authorities to uphold Pakistan’s commitments to international human rights standards, including the right to freedom of expression and access to information under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the joint statement, they urged the government and public bodies to:

– Immediately unblock X, formerly Twitter, in Pakistan.

– Repeal sections of the law, such as Section 37 of PECA, that enable censorship and violate Article 19 (right to freedom of speech and press freedom) and Article 19-A (right of access to information).

– Act with transparency on decisions that impact the free use of the Internet, including for political and economic purposes.

– Issue a statement of clarification outlining the reasons and legal basis for the recent blocking of “X” and other affected platforms.

– Avoid future actions that obstruct the free flow of information and adversely affect political discourse within the countries and take back all legislative proposals expanding control and censorship over the internet, including the e-safety bill from the previous government’s tenure should not be revived.

– Abide by Pakistan’s commitments to uphold freedom of expression and right to access to information under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Signatories include: 

Organizations: AGHS, Bolo Bhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD), Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Freedom Network (FN), Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Bytes for All, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Women Democratic Front.

Individuals: Muhammad Aftab Alam, Iqbal Khattak, Adnan Rehmat, Shafique Chaudhry, Haroon Baloch, Usama Khilji, Zoya Rehman, Abdullah Nizamani, Zohra Yusuf, Salima Hashmi, Imdad Khoso, Ammar Rashid and Zeeshan Ahmed.

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