'Law of the jungle': Govt's new social media policy comes under criticism in Senate

Updated 14 Feb 2020

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Senators Rubina Khalid and Usman Kakar criticised the government's new social media policy in the Senate on Friday. — DawnNews/File Photo
Senators Rubina Khalid and Usman Kakar criticised the government's new social media policy in the Senate on Friday. — DawnNews/File Photo

The government's new social media policy came under criticism in the Senate on Friday, with lawmakers accusing the government of having bypassed the parliament in drafting the rules.

PPP Senator Rubina Khalid while raising the matter in the House said, "We had been assured that the new rules [regarding digital media] would be brought before the Senate committee but they were not brought before us."

She said that the ministry had promised that the committee would be made aware of the new rules before they were taken to the federal cabinet but that was not the case. She added that a notice should be taken of the matter and protest should be registered against the rules.

Meanwhile, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar opposed what he called the government move to "control social media", saying that people are not being allowed to use social media the country.

"We do not accept this law of the jungle," he said, adding that journalists are being "restricted" and some have even been kidnapped or murdered.

It had emerged on Wednesday that the government has approved a controversial new policy for regulating digital media. Under the new rules, social media companies will be required to submit information such as subscriber information, traffic data and content data to a designated investigation agency when sought, failing which they can be fined up to Rs500 million.

The social media companies will also be required to establish an office in Islamabad within the next three months and appoint a focal person.

As per the rules, the social media platforms will also have to remove any content deemed "unlawful" and pointed out to them through writing or electronically-signed email within 24 hours or in cases of emergency, within six hours.

’They have lost their minds’

Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Senator Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi took exception to the prime minister's statement regarding Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The premier had told journalists earlier today that Rehman should be tried for treason for talking about the ouster of the government.

“They have lost their minds," the JUI-F senator declared.

“If the prime minister says this then the Article should be applicable, who is the obstacle?” he questioned, daring the government to “take the historic step” of filing a treason case.

“Such cases have been made [against us] in the past as well. Pervez Musharraf charged us with treason. Where is he today?”

Haideri claimed that the prime minister was unqualified for elections and had come to power through "fake elections". He further said that he would resign “if [it was proven] the prime minister fulfils the conditions of Article 62 of the Constitution".

Shibli Faraz, the leader of the House in the Senate told Haideri that Rehman had talked about certain assurances that he had been given to wrap up the Azadi March. The PTI senator demanded that the Senate be told what assurances had been given to Rehman.

'Reko Diq is the property of Balochistan's people'

Meanwhile, National Party Senator Mir Kabir Mohammad Shahi submitted an adjournment motion regarding a recent speech by Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he talked about the Reko Diq gold case, saying that the premier’s statements had “no legal basis”.

On Wednesday, the prime minister while talking about the country’s natural resources at a startup demonstration ceremony in Islamabad had said that foreign debts would be paid through the gold reserves of Reko Diq mines, The News reported.

“The federal government has no right to sell Reko Diq’s resources to pay off the country’s debts,” Shahi said, adding that Reko Diq is the property of the people of Balochistan. He asked for a discussion to be held on the matter in the Senate.

Reko Diq is a gold and copper mining project in Balochistan. Last month, Pakistan had moved a United States federal court to pause the enforcement of a $6 billion fine it was ordered to pay in the Reko Diq case. Australian copper company -- Tethyan Copper Co. Pty Ltd -- had sued the Pakistani government for damages after its leasing request was rejected by the provincial government.

The Senate also approved a bill for the protection of women’s rights. The bill states in its objectives that women are deprived of their property rights through duplicitous means and it is imperative that their right to own property be protected.