Netizen Report: Pakistan’s Anti-Terror Ordinance May Endanger Online Speech

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 24 2014 5:05 PM

Netizen Report: Pakistan’s Anti-Terror Ordinance May Endanger Online Speech

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A Pakistani cell phone user browses YouTube on his mobile phone in Pakistan, during a brief period when the video sharing site was accessible.

Photo by BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Netizen Report originally appears each week on Global Voices Advocacy. This editing was written by Hae-in Lim, Lisa Ferguson, Ellery Biddle, and Sarah Myers.

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Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week's report begins in Pakistan, where the Senate is deliberating on controversial legislation that would grant sweeping powers to Pakistani security forces in the name of combating terrorism—which could have adverse effects for media workers and online speech. Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan, a local advocacy group, has led a nationwide campaign against the bill, with support from multiple political parties. Passed in the National Assembly on April 7, the bill has since met significant resistance from a range of political groups. Computer-specific language that appeared in the original draft of the bill has been removed, but advocates believe there is still ample work to be done to ensure that the law does not imperil online speech.

A number of other bills currently in progress would similarly limit online freedoms. Among them is the Fair Trial Act, which expands the right of security agencies to monitor electronic communications, and the Cyber Security Council Bill, which would establish a council of experts to monitor international surveillance and hacking.

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In better news, the Senate Human Rights Committee passed a resolution on Monday, April 21, to lift the countrywide ban on YouTube, which has been blocked in Pakistan since controversy and violent conflict concerning the “Innocence of Muslims” video reached its peak in autumn of 2012. Digital rights group Bolo Bhi requested a public hearing, which may take place as soon as May 5.

Internet Governance: Brazil passes “Bill of Rights” at Internet World Cup kick-off.
The Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance began on Wednesday, April 23, in São Paulo, Brazil. The World Wide Web Foundation’s Nnenna Nwakanma, an open-Internet advocate from Nigeria, delivered an address on behalf of civil society in which she highlighted the importance of trust in the global Internet ecosystem. For more on the event, see special coverage by Global Voices authors participating in the NETmundial.

Hours before the meeting began, Brazil's Senate voted to pass the landmark Marco Civil da Internet, which was signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff. While there has been much celebration and praise for the law, some activists fear that human rights protections—particularly those concerning data privacy—may have become diluted in the current text.

Thuggery: Algerian activists face harassment, death threats on Facebook.
Persecution and violence against political opposition groups has reached a peak in Algeria, where activists report that government authorities have created dozens of Facebook pages and groups where they post activists’ personal information, photos, and contact details. Some pages even include calls for the assassination of opposition leaders. Tensions have risen since ailing incumbent President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was re-elected in mid-April, the result of an amendment to the country's constitution allowing him to run for a fourth term. Bouteflika, known for his limited tolerance of political dissent, has been in power since 1999.

Two journalists in Thailand, Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, were released on bail after being arrested for an online report connecting military personnel to human trafficking. The Royal Thai Navy filed criminal defamation and computer crimes charges against the journalists for the article, which was published on news website Phuketwan last July.

Charles Xue, a businessman and prominent personality on Chinese social media, appeared on Chinese state television endorsing the government’s campaign to control the Web. Once an outspoken critic of China’s information policies, Xue was arrested in Beijing last year for allegedly hiring prostitutes but then released without trial.

Free Expression: China’s bid for a porn-free Internet
Chinese authorities have launched a campaign to “sweep out porn” and “strike at rumors” [link in Chinese] this month. Aimed at removing forces the Chinese Communist Party deems amoral or depraved on the Internet, the campaign has already resulted in the closure or investigation of more than 20 websites [link in Chinese]. 

Industry: Censorship is bad for business, says Sina Weibo.
After its initial public offering raised much less than expected, Sina Weibo Corp. has warned that censorship imposed by the Chinese government could be harming its business.

A delegation of Twitter executives arrived in Ankara this week to meet with Turkish officials. The platform was blocked nationwide in March. Government officials have allegedly demanded that Twitter reveal the identities of individuals posting leaks from an investigation into corruption, and that it open an office in Turkey.

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