May 20, 2015 - Comments Off on Citizens and Industry Refute IT Minister’s Statements & Demand Proper Public Hearing
INDUSTRY AND CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS STRONGLY REFUTE
IT STATE MINISTER’S DELIBERATE DISTORTIONS AND ALLEGATIONS
AND DEMAND PUBLIC HEARING
20 May 2015
We, the Joint Action Committee on the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 (PECB) & Alliance For Access, reject and take strong exception to statements made by Minister of State for IT & Telecommunications, Ms. Anusha Rahman, during the NA Standing Committee on IT’s meeting on 20th May 2015.
During the meeting Ms. Rahman remarked that ‘elements are making a hue and cry so that no laws against cyber crimes could be enacted in the country’. This is entirely false and a gross misrepresentation of what members of civil society and industry have been saying throughout the process.
We have categorically stated that a cyber crime law is required to deal with crimes. However, in its current form, the Bill is not acceptable to the public, the IT industry and the media. It will be highly detrimental to the fundamental Constitutional rights of all citizens to the freedom of speech and expression; the right to information; it will negatively impact legitimate business, research, education, information, and will have an adverse impact on Pakistan’s economy. Additionally, this draft will affect journalism at large in the country and, ultimately, lead to an absence of investigative journalism by diminishing access to information, which would otherwise strengthen the government’s fight against corruption and nepotism.
Moreover, we have repeatedly insisted that public input must be taken on the draft Bill, and that it should be reviewed and revised through an open, transparent and consultative process. This is in keeping with democratic norms of legislation and political participation.
Ms. Rahman also said today that had there been a cyber crime law, the Axact case would not have happened. We ask her: although there are multiple laws in the country, does that mean crimes are not committed? Laws are enacted to ensure action can be taken against a crime after it is committed. In Axact’s case, the FIA has already acted through search, seizure and detention. The investigation is underway, therefore, clearly a lack of law has not been a hindrance. The Axact issue should not be used as a convenient excuse to push through the cyber crime Bill in its current draconian form, without consultation or seeking public input and making the necessary changes.
A public hearing on the PEC Bill is scheduled for Friday, May 22, 2015. However the ‘invitation’ has only been extended to seven people to appear before a committee of 20 members. This is contrary to the spirit of a “public hearing.”
The Joint Action Committee members are definitely among the stakeholders, but we are not the only ones. Instead of hand-picking selected invitees, we call upon the NA Standing Committee on IT to conduct the public hearing in a proper manner, by opening it to all concerned members of the public and invite the entire print and electronic media too, in the spirit of transparency and openness. No other course of action is acceptable.
Bytes For All
Digital Rights Foundation
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan
Media Matters for Democracy
Pakistan Software Houses Association
Reporters Without Borders