August 28, 2019 – Islamabad High Court (IHC) heard the case petitioned by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) regarding the blocking of their website and other online content by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
The petition was filed by the AWP against PTA in February 2019 to challenge its authority of blocking AWP website weeks before the General Elections 2018. The petition was clubbed for hearing with another similar petition (Asad Baig V.s. PTA) filed by Asad Baig, the founder of Media Matters for Democracy, challenging the arbitrary shutdown of 22 news websites in the wake of Faizabad Dharna.
The case was presented to Justice Athar Minallah where the petitioner’s arguments were heard objecting the actions of PTA to censor websites.
During the hearing, the respondents’ lawyers failed to produce any satisfactory evidence or arguments to the Court. The honorable judge objected the lawyer’s argument of blocking the website on the basis of hateful content and questioned the authority by which the actions were taken without issuing notice and giving the petitioner a chance to respond.
Honorable Judge, Justice Athar Minallah, further questioned the PTA’s authority to censor online content by asking if the authority will take down Islamabad High Court’s website too, and stated that actions such as these undermine the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. He further stated that the courts cannot look away on these actions.
The Court demanded an authorised officer from PTA to appear in court in the next hearing scheduled for September 12, 2019.
Hija is a Programs Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. She combines her experience in digital rights in Pakistan to lead digital rights and internet governance advocacy of MMfD. She tweets at @hijakamran