Islamabad: Participants at a consultation meeting on Thursday called for revision of the proposed cyber crime bill as it was replete with flaws and poses a serious threat to freedom of expression and privacy.
They said owing to immense criticism on the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, approved by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology in April, the government was now seeking feedback and suggestions from the public.
They also asked the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights to review the bill before it was tabled in the lower house. They feared if the bill was passed in its current form, it could be used to criminalise dissent.
Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director Nighat Dad pointed out that the biggest flaw was that its language was vague and too wide to interpret which could have several interpretations.
The section 34, for instance, says the government can block anything that is unacceptable, which is too vague and completely takes away freedom of expression from citizens, said Dad.
Blue Veins Project Manager Qamar Naseem said the dilemma was not just from the citizens’ end but the government was facing a major problem too.
“Televisions have cameras which record everything and forward the information to their headquarters, which shows how important it is to protect data and therefore there is no denying the fact that the bill is needed.”
The only concern is that the bill needs to be revised to ensure it does not hurt freedom of expression completely while protecting data and securing citizens at the same time, said Naseem.
Aass Foundation Chairperson Uzma Osho said the bill in its current form could easily be used to exploit the fundamental rights of citizens including their right to freedom of expression, right to information, freedom of assembly and privacy rights among others.
“I cannot see how this bill will protect data, the only thing this bill will do is to gag the freedom of expression,” said Osho.
The speakers also talked about satire and caricatures and it was suggested that the policy regarding search engines and social media networking tools should also be reviewed while finalising the bill.
Coordinator of Tribal NGOs Consortium Zar Ali Khan while demanding to review the bill said the government must ensure that human rights were not only protected during the legislation-making but laws also implemented.