July 24, 2020 – Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to lift the ban on mobile-based video game PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds (PUBG) in Pakistan.
The decision came hours after the announcement by PTA to continue to block the game, a decision it reached after holding a public hearing. The legal team representing PUBG said that they participated in the hearing hosted by PTA on July 9, but it was more of a ‘consultative meeting’ than a hearing.
The IHC suspended PTA’s decision, and ordered to restore access to the game immediately. PUBG was banned by PTA on July 1, after receiving complaints from citizens who alleged the game was “addictive, wastage of time and poses serious negative impact on physical and psychological health of the children”.
In a hearing in IHC on July 14, Justice Amer Farooq remarked that the PTA should have taken advice from a mental health expert before banning the game. The PTA lawyer responded that the game was banned due to religious and ethical sensitivities. Justice Farooq noted that it has become a practice to ‘put everything in that category’ (to justify the ban).
On July 20, PTA also banned the live video streaming app Bigo Live, and sent a final warning to the famous video sharing app TikTok after receiving complaints “from different segments of the society against immoral, obscene & vulgar content”. PTA has blocked the app in exercising its powers vested under s.37: Unlawful Content, of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.
Earlier, Salwa Rana, the Legal Officer at Media Matters for Democracy, said, “The discretionary content removal powers granted to the PTA through Section 37 of the PECA are one of the biggest threats facing free expression in the country and must be repealed as soon as possible. This section has only been used as a tool to silence dissent and the exchange of ideas through unconventional media.”
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