PTA barred from blocking websites without consultation

Published February 10, 2023
A  ministerial committee presided over by IT Minister Syed Aminul Haque was held in Islamabad on Thursday. — Picture via Ministry of IT/Twitter
A ministerial committee presided over by IT Minister Syed Aminul Haque was held in Islamabad on Thursday. — Picture via Ministry of IT/Twitter

ISLAMABAD: The government has barred the Pakistan Telecommunica­tion Authority (PTA) from blocking any website without consulting the Minis­try of Information Tech­nology and Tele­communi­cation.

The decision was made in a ministerial committee meeting chaired by IT Minister Syed Aminul Haque. The committee was established by the prime minister on Feb 6 after PTA blocked Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar also attended the meeting alongside other members of the committee.

Mr Haque told Dawn after the meeting that there had to be a check on contents floating on the internet, but a blanket ban was more harmful to society in the long run.

“The ministerial committee is against those steps which impede the development process,” the minister said, adding that blocking a website meant disconnecting from the digital world, which eventually led to social and economic disadvantages.

“However, the committee wants to promote an environment by imparting awareness among the people that they do not visit such websites containing objectionable content,” he said.

The committee decided that the PTA must consult the IT ministry before blocking any website in future.

During the meeting, Law Minister Tarar said the PTA could consult his ministry upon receiving any directives to shut down a website.

However, he did not specify the name or authority that might issue directives to the PTA for blocking a website.

The PTA degraded the services of Wikipedia on Feb 1. Two days later, it blocked the site, saying that Wikimedia Foundation, the group that oversees Wikipedia, failed to respond to repeated correspondence over the issue.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2023

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