PESHAWAR: Reminding its employees about restrictions on their online freedom, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Tuesday stopped them from sharing information about its matters on social media platforms.

It also said officials required its prior permission to participate in any media activity.

The establishment department informed the administrative secretaries, commissioners, deputy commissioners and heads of the attached departments through a letter that under Rule 34(A) of the KP Government Servant Conduct Rules, 1987, no government servant would use social media to discuss or share information on issues relating to government business provided that the social media might be used, if required and that, too, with the prior approval of the administrative secretaries, heads of attached departments or commissioners, as the case might be, for disseminating information to people regarding the government’s initiatives for better governance.

The rule was inserted into the Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1987, through an amendment in 2020.

The letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn, said under the rules, no civil servant or government employees could “participate in any media platforms except with the permission of the government.”

It also says officials require its prior nod to participate in media activities

It added that rules 23, 24, 25, 28 and 29 of the Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1987, barred officials from expressing their views against the country’s ideology and security and taking part in any public demonstrations against a government decision or policy.

The letter said Rule 25 of the Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1987, declared that no government servant would, in any document, published or any public utterance, radio broadcast or television programme, or in any other manner, make any statement of the fact or opinion that was capable of embarrassing the federation.

It added that Rule 21 stated that no government servant would, except in accordance with any or special or general order of government, communicate directly or indirectly any official information or the contents of any official document to a government servant not authorised to receive it, a non-official person, or the press.

A senior official of the establishment department told Dawn that the order covered only personal social media accounts of the officials.

“Social media accounts of the government can be used to disseminate official information,” he said.

Another senior official hailed the move and said it would restrict “some government officials, who support political parties on their social media to get close to them.”

Convener of the All Pakistan PMS Officers Association Fahd Ikram Qazi told Dawn that the instructions issued by the establishment department had “jumbled up too many issues creating misunderstandings and confusion” among civil servants.

He said many things were already clear like employees should neither share official information with anyone without the approval of their bosses nor should they pursue the agenda of any political party let alone participating in their gatherings.

“Even then, we see teachers and doctors work in the wings of political parties. That is strange but has not been addressed,” he said.

Mr Qazi said the departments and district authorities coordinated among themselves through WhatsApp groups bringing about efficiency to their working and that such messages were day-to-day correspondence and not some high-end secret information.

He said many civil servants had Facebook and Twitter accounts posting messages about their official duties and looking for followers.

“This practice is amoral and has negative optics for the people who are being served. They [employees] may be allowed to have social media accounts for private use and not embellish their routine duties to become small celebrities of sorts,” he said.

Mr Qazi said it had become necessary for departments and district administration to have social media accounts to regularly post their activities for the information of all but that, too, was a double-edged sword as civil servants were given an outlet for disseminating information but at the same time, they had become vulnerable and recipients of misdirected abuse.

“There requires much more than this confused cocktail of instructions,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2023

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