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Disseminating obscene or immoral messages on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks has been made an offence under Section 20 without defining ‘obscenity’ or ‘immorality’. — AFP/file
Disseminating obscene or immoral messages on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks has been made an offence under Section 20 without defining ‘obscenity’ or ‘immorality’. — AFP/file

ISLAMABAD: Uploading photos on Instagram and Facebook or sending emails or text messages to a recipient without their consent may be considered harmless online behaviour, but under the new Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) 2015, these actions and many more could land unsuspecting Internet users in jail.

“The bill criminalises all such activities. Nowhere in the world is spam a criminal offence, but it is about to become one in Pakistan,” said Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) Convener Wahajus Siraj.

Read: New cybercrime bill tough on individuals’ rights, soft on crime

He was addressing a press conference on Wednesday, held at the National Press Club to protest against the new bill that has been forwarded to the National Assembly for debate.

Speaking on behalf of a Joint Action Committee on the Cyber Crime Bill 2015, Mr Siraj explained how the new bill would impact Internet users, the IT industry, print and electronic media, academia, researchers, the legal community and private citizens, particularly the youth of Pakistan.

The joint action committee, which is a group consisting of representatives of Internet service providers, IT companies and entrepreneurs along with other stakeholders, argued that checks and balances on investigation agencies and officers have been removed under the bill that also fails to define the mechanisms of enforcement.


ISPs, entrepreneurs and IT stakeholders come out in opposition to proposed cybercrime legislation


“For example, there no longer exists a need – under the new law – for an investigation officer to give reasons to obtain a warrant from the court to search, seize or make arrests. The safeguards introduced by the IT industry, such as protection against self-incrimination and the right of an accused to know the charges against him/her, have also been omitted,” Mr Siraj said.

“In its present form, the new bill will seriously discourage students, academics and universities who conduct research,” he said.

Pointing out some of the glaring aspects of the bill that would affect civil liberties, he explained how political criticism and political expression in the form of analysis, commentary, blogs, cartoons, caricatures and memes has been criminalised under sections 17 and 18 of the new bill.

Disseminating obscene or immoral messages on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks has been made an offence under Section 20 without defining ‘obscenity’ or ‘immorality’, thus giving sweeping powers to investigating agencies to implicate anyone on these charges, he said.

Farieha Aziz, director of Bolo Bhi – an advocacy organisation focusing on Internet policy, digital security and privacy – explained how posting a photograph of any person of Facebook or Instagram without their permission would be an offence under Section 20 of the new bill.

“Section 21 says that sending an email or message without the recipient’s permission will become an offence. This means that an expression of consent from a recipient will be needed before texting him or her, without which the end user can report to the law enforcement agencies and have the sender thrown behind bars for anywhere between a few months to several years,” Ms Aziz said.

Faisal S. Khan, the chief executive officer of the IT company OVEXTECH, explained how his business would be hit in every possible way, adding, “The new law will throw Pakistan [back] into the dark ages”.

Speakers were also critical of Section 31, which supposedly gives the government unfettered powers to block access or remove speech not only on the Internet, but which is transmitted through any device, limiting the media’s freedom and citizens’ right to expression.

Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA) Executive Member for IT Syed Ahmad explained how the bill gave authorities powers to confiscate devices and data, something foreign investors who valued their privacy would be uncomfortable with.

Speakers were also concerned about Section 26 – the definition of service providers – traditionally limited to ISPs and telecom companies. According to the speakers, the definition has now been expanded to include any place that offers access to Internet to the public such as restaurants, malls, hotels, offices, airports bus stations.

“This puts burden on cafes and restaurants to retaining traffic data for three months and they can be punished for not doing so,” Ms Aziz explained.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2015

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Comments (20) Closed



Sufibhai Apr 16, 2015 08:02am

Is this for real? If so one must find out the real brain who drafted the text of the bill and...... Oops am I going to commit a crime here!

Ayesha Gul Apr 16, 2015 08:28am

construct at least a million jails in Pakistan

AT Apr 16, 2015 09:05am

Much needed bill, hope it is implemented correctly!

rehan Apr 16, 2015 09:06am

spam should be criminalized. It's highly offensive!

Keti Zilgish Apr 16, 2015 09:19am

Irresponsible actions on the part of ISPs has created the rationale for religious fundamentalism to crash in from the back door and thus conveniently ignore representative democracy.

aslam shaikh Apr 16, 2015 09:37am

They should sit down with local software experts and also review laws in other countries.

Saad(DXB) Apr 16, 2015 09:45am

“The bill criminalises all such activities. Nowhere in the world is spam a criminal offence, but it is about to become one in Pakistan,”

Absolutely false. I know for a fact that in USA it's considered an offense and a spammer was filed hundreds of millions of dollars apart from prison time, in USA a few years ago, for sending billions of spam emails on behalf of his clients through a network of powerful computers.

masood Apr 16, 2015 10:37am

Atleast they should ask some IT experts as to what is real offence. the most worrying thing is the people who have been or shall be responsible to take action are 90% ignorant of the use of this media and more so of the interpreting of the law.

Haider Rehman Apr 16, 2015 12:36pm

"there no longer exists a need – under "the new law – for an investigation officer to give reasons to obtain a warrant from the court to search, seize or make arrests"

I can see how govt will use this to crack down on opposition parties.

Haider Rehman Apr 16, 2015 12:37pm

@AT Is this acceptable: "there no longer exists a need – under the new law – for an investigation officer to give reasons to obtain a warrant from the court to search, seize or make arrests"

This is not the spam you think it is.

KHALID SOHAIL SHAIKH Apr 16, 2015 12:37pm

Cybercrime is a new threat to whole world. This may cause this modern and rich world to go back to stone world. Air and flying control can be disturbed by cyber crime, again rich and poor will be travelling on horses, TUKA TUK TAKA TUK.

Muhammad Apr 16, 2015 12:50pm

Bravo Pakistan!!

Freedom of expression leads to cages. World is going to be digitized and every communication takes place via internet in developed world and been developing country we ban over penetration of social media means public power.

Actually, politicians, and govt is afraid of public now a days bcz through internet public can expose them in the world that may be reason on implementing such a strict law.

Imagine for a while, if any body want to email some one he gets prior permission??

What a silly...........

Usman Apr 16, 2015 01:22pm

Lets make it this way, e.g. i email some research scholar asking for his help in some of my ongoing research project, and you know what guys after this bill, that scholar can send me to jail for writing him a request without his prior approval. Now that's gonna be interesting.

Anon Mouse Apr 16, 2015 01:24pm

Nice, but near impossible to implement the internet part.

Maqsood Apr 16, 2015 02:25pm

Good Move.

Maqsood Apr 16, 2015 02:26pm

It should been made 10 years before.

khan Apr 16, 2015 09:12pm

Many messages are computer generated. No human being is actually present so it is hard to judge who is criminal. It will not take us anywhere. It is just waste of time. It will also be difficult to justify this law in future. Instead of this bill, we can spend money on educating people. Internet companies can contribute to educate what is right and what is wrong on internet. We put more efforts towards education instead of blocking things like this. For example, all restaurants and cafes should be forced to place a poster on the front which explains what is allowed and what is not. The message should be well written by psychiatrist, not like speech. This is the way to minimize the impact of wrong doings.

Stolid Apr 17, 2015 10:27am

Do any one have the draft ??

Feisal Rahimtoola Apr 17, 2015 11:53am

Not surprising because there are quite a few areas we are in a prehistoric era. However, if ate upon this could be as sore as Blasphemy and Hudood laws.

Aafaaq Ali Khan Apr 17, 2015 03:42pm

Better deactivate your account and stop sharing your Wi-Fi as well because they will track you down through IP Assigned to your device. So anyone who misused it may result in criminal offence wink emoticon