Pakistan has imposed new rules on its digital media and activist are calling it against the freedom of speech. According to regulations that were officially passed by Pakistan’s cabinet late last month, social media companies will be now obliged to help the administrative agencies access data and to remove online content they deemed unlawful.
The approval of the new rules brings a flood of accusations by opposition parties who states that PM Imran Khan’s government is trying to silence the opponents. Pakistan’s military has also faced allegations of cracking down on media and free speech.
Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, an official from the Ministry of Information Technology stated that these rules and regulations would help the government “identify and weed out unwanted and slanderous online content.”
“We needed to do it to uphold the integrity, decency and respect of individuals and sanctity of institutions,” he said.
The new rules on social media are described by the authors as intended to prevent live streaming of online content relating to “terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.”
After the act, social media companies will have to respond within 24 hours to a request to remove “unlawful” material or a mere six hours in emergency cases by law. They will have three months to record their companies with authorities in Pakistan and must have a physical presence in Pakistan.
If required, the companies will be obligatory to provide subscriber information, traffic data, content data and any other information or data that is required, the regulations instruct.
The rules say that explanations of the regulations by the authorities in Pakistan “shall take precedence over any community standards or rules or community guidelines or policies or any other instruments devised by a social media company.”