‘AWP’s Website Was Blocked On Orders Of A Security Agency’
By Syed Saad
Islamabad High Court (IHC) through an order has directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to nominate an officer to explain why left-leaning Awami Workers Party (AWP)’s website was blocked. In the hearing, PTA was snubbed by the court for failing to disclose on what basis the website was banned.
Last year in July, with the elections just around the corner, the website of AWP was blocked in Pakistan.
Lawyer Haider Imtiaz, who is representing AWP in the case, told Naya Daur that the party was initially under the impression that its website was down due to technical reasons or hacking. “But we were later informed by Digital Rights Foundation and Netblocks, an NGO that monitors cybersecurity, that it was in all probability blocked by the government,” he said.
According to the lawyer, the party wrote to PTA about this and to date has received no response from the authority. Meanwhile, the party had gotten in touch with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), urging it to play its part in the provision of ‘a level playing field’ before the elections. The ban was lifted for a few weeks, but later imposed again.
In February this year, the AWP filed a writ petition in which they challenged the ‘apparent action of PTA’, as no written order from the organisation had been received. In the petition, AWP’s lawyer had argued that the banning of PTA’s website was in violation of Article 10A (the right to fair trail and due process), and Section 24A of the General Clauses Act 1897. The latter provides that a government body, which has been authorized to exercise certain powers under a law, must exercise those powers reasonably, fairly and justly and must provide reasons for its decisions.
The party had argued that under Section 37 of PECA, there exists a proper mechanism for removal of online content, which involves the authority giving the ‘accused’ a fair chance to defend themself before the action is taken. This mechanism, AWP’s lawyer had argued, was not followed.
No proof of hate speech was found:
In the subsequent hearings, the PTA admitted in court that they had blocked the website. Upon being questioned by the court on the…