DRM Exclusive: ‘Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 will not be implemented’ – source close to PM

Islamabad, 19th Feb: The controversial rules against online harm developed to regulate content on social media platforms will not be implemented in their current form, claims a source privy to the matter and the proceedings of a recent meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A copy of Rules (formally known as Citizen Protection Against Online Harm Rules 2020) dated 21st January recently surfaced, which according to this source were approved in a cabinet meeting where there was little to no discussion on their implementation. Considering which, he says, the Prime Minister called another meeting to review the Rules and decided to halt the implementation and address key concerns of the stakeholders.

It’s important to note here that the Rules, although approved by the federal cabinet, weren’t published in the Official Gazette of the Government of Pakistan. The source also confirmed that these Rules will not be published in the Gazette in their current form, and will be amended with the feedback from the stakeholders through consultations.

The Rules dated 21st January required all social media companies to register in Pakistan within 3 months, and move their data-servers within the geographical boundaries of Pakistan within a year, the failure of which could result in the suspension of their services within the country. The Rules attracted a lot of criticism by groups and individuals inside and outside Pakistan, and were termed ‘dangerous for fundamental rights and the digital economy’.

“It is a step in the right direction but the Rules shouldn’t have been made in urgency and without stakeholder consultation. There are massive issues in the draft. We are yet to see how effective these consultations will be. It is too early to comment”, says Sadaf Khan, the co-founder of Media Matters for Democracy.

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