X is still down in Pakistan, VPN also restricted


X, formerly known as Twitter, continues to be disrupted in Pakistan for the tenth consecutive day. The outage coincides with restrictions imposed on virtual private networks (VPNs), further limiting access to social media platforms in the country. The disruption has sparked concerns over freedom of expression and access to information, with users unable to utilize alternative means to access the microblogging service.

According to Dawn, X users of Pakistan continue to face persistent challenges in accessing the platform. Commencing on February 17, the outage has aligned with tightened restrictions on virtual private networks (VPNs), making it harder for users to get around censorship measures. Notably, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the government agency responsible for overseeing telecommunications has chosen not to issue an official statement on the issue, redirecting inquiries to the Ministry of Interior instead.

On February 19, Caretaker Interior Minister Gohar Ejaz, stated that he had no knowledge of any restrictions being imposed. Information Minister Murtaza Solangi also refuted claims of suspending the services of X, Dawn added.

The Nation reported that the outage has raised concerns among citizens and rights activists about the freedom of expression and access to information in Pakistan. In a nation where social media plays a pivotal role in communication and information sharing, the outage has yielded notable consequences. Those dependent on X for rapid dissemination of news, updates, and viewpoints find themselves disconnected and unable to avail the platform’s offerings. This scenario has prompted apprehensions about the entitlement to freely access social media platforms.

According to the 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.

However, as per Pakistan Today, the SHC issued a directive instructing the federal government and the PTA to reinstate services for social media platforms, including X, across Pakistan on February 21. The order, issued by an SHC bench led by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, came in response to a petition challenging recent “unconstitutional” internet shutdowns throughout the country. Furthermore, the court has requested a report from the PTA regarding the suspension of internet services on election day and has issued a notice to the federal government.

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