Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday hinted at introducing regulations to control social media, saying “there were some things in social media that should be controlled as people's privacy was being harmed through it”.
He said in a statement that the government would consult journalists and other stakeholders regarding the laws of FIA related to social media and if it is found that the bill would restrict freedom of expression, the government will withdraw it.
Sanaullah said that the government feared that the bill would affect freedom of expression, adding that it has sought guidance from media and journalist bodies.
سوشل میڈیا سے متعلق FIA کے قانون میں تبدیلی پر صحافی برداری ودیگر اسٹیک ہولڈرز سے مشاورت کریں گے، اگر بل کے ذریعے آزادی اظہارِ رائے پر قدغن لگے گی تو حکومت بل کو واپس لے گی، سوشل میڈیا میں کچھ چیزیں ایسی ہیں جس کو کنٹرول کرنا چاہیے؛ لوگوں کی نجی زندگی کو نقصان پہنچایا جا رہا ہے۔
— Rana SanaUllah Khan (@RanaSanaullahPK) November 2, 2022
The Express Tribune earlier reported that the government had authorised the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against those who intended to spread “rumours and false information against state institutions” on social media.
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The federal cabinet on October 27 approved an amendment to the FIA Act, 1974 with a section of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for this purpose.
It gave the nod to a summary on circulation from the interior ministry for changes in the FIA law.
“[The] FIA has intimated that presently, social media is inundated with false information and rumours against state institutions and organisations with intent to cause or incite or which is likely to cause or incite any officer, solder, sailor or airman in army, navy, or air force of Pakistan to mutiny, offence or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such,” the summary read.
“These rumours and false information are also being disseminated with the intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm in the public or in any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state or against the public tranquillity,” it added.
It further stated that the FIA had noted that these rumours and false information “were likely to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community”.
The FIA noted that the offence was triable under PPC Section 505 (statement conducing to public mischief), which was currently not included in the agency’s law.
It wanted the State’s approval to include Section 505 in its scheduled offences.
PPC Section 505 read: “Whoever makes, publishes, or circulates any statement, rumour or report – (a) with intent to cause or incite, or which is likely to cause or incite, any officer, soldier, sailor, or airman in the Army, Navy or Air Force of Pakistan to mutiny, offence or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such; or (b) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity; or (c) with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and with fine.”