July 02, 2016 - Comments Off on Day one of the Senate’s deliberation on PECB
A two day meeting took place on Wednesday and Thursday i.e. June 29-30 respectively where the Senate Sub-Committee overlooking the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2016 deliberated with civil society actors, social media activists and internet service providers, on the many issues within the draft.
This post is the first of a two part series on the proceedings of the meeting.
On Wednesday, the parliamentary panel looked into amending the different clauses that will hurt the cause of human rights in Pakistan. Freedom of expression, social media and the different punishments that are to be meted out were put on the table.
Osman Saifullah Khan chaired the meeting which was also attended by Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director Nighat Dad.
The problem of there being no balance was brought up during the meeting. A multitude of sections were discussed during the meeting and the stakeholders present gave their input as to what should be changed and what should be omitted.
Senator Farhatullah Babar who was also present on the occasion said that the bill required more clarity. He questioned the impact that the bill would have on the flow of information and freedom of expression. He also highlighted that data protection and safeguards to personal data are an issue that needs to be remedied.
The committee placed under consideration Section 19 which talks about offences against the dignity of the natural person.
NayaTel CEO Wahaj-u-Siraj was of the view that other laws already deal with this issue and this clause should be omitted from the bill. He also said that the clause could be used to abuse power and curb freedom on social media. The committee said that the proposed punishment for the section i.e. fine and imprisonment, also needed to be revisited.
Senator Mohsin Khan Leghari said that citizens also needed protection and the bill was failing to provide. It. Senator Shibli Faraz highlighted the ignorance that is prevalent in Pakistan and said that the laws need to be developed in a manner so that they could benefit the average Pakistani.
While the committee said that the clause should be kept because it would play an important role, they also acknowledged that it needed major amendments before it could be allowed to go through.
The committee also looked into Section 22 which has to do with spamming. It was observed that laws against spamming exist in many countries, however, it should not be criminalized.
Here Nighat Dad pointed out that the bill had no protection for whistle blowers or those who leaked information with public interest in their mind. The FIA official present was adamant that anyone giving out information was committing a crime, irrespective of their intent. Officials responded to a question by Babar by saying that the spamming had to do with commercial and marketing spamming and not unsolicited communication.
They advised that the imprisonment should be removed, however, the fine penalty should be retained. During the next meeting, a comparison of EU and Singaporean law will also be brought to the table to see what improvements can be made to the PECB.
For Section 21, which deals with cyber stalking, the committee recommended that the content of the bill be tightened for better clarity.
Published by: Digital Rights Foundation in Blog