PESHAWAR  - Working journalists at a sensitization session have expressed grave concern on the current state of cybercrime bill, and termed it an attempt of PML-N government to take a legislative control of internet freedom in Pakistan.

The sensitization session for journalists’ community on prevention of “Electronic Crime Bill” was jointly organized by a group of civil society organization including Blue Veins, Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN), Tribal NGOs Consortium (TNC), Peace Justice and Youth Organization (PJYO) and AAS Foundation, in which journalists from various media organizations participated.

The participants were informed that Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance (PECO) 2007 was presented in 2007 under the article 89(2) of the constitution. Afterwards, this ordinance was re-defined in 2008, 2009 and 2014 as well and presently the new draft of Pakistan Electronic Cyber Crime Bill 2015 was sent to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on IT and Telecom earlier in the month of May 2015.

Now the Ministry of IT has made amendments to previously drafted bill that talks more about internet control in which users will be fined for sharing any information that government deems inappropriate, vulgar or against glory of Islam.

The journalists expressed grave concern on the current state of cybercrime bill and called it an attempt by the PML-N government to take a legislative control of internet freedoms in Pakistan.

In the sensitization session various clauses of the cybercrime bill were discussed in detail, the participants welcomed the government to introduce a bill which could prevent cybercrime, terrorism and electronic fraud, but expressed their disappointment on the vague language of the proposed bill, which in its current shape have the potential to pose a serious threat to fundamental rights and freedoms in Pakistan which could cause a serious threat to journalists in Pakistan and will promote the criminalization of dissent.

The participants feared that the control of cyber space by government may lead to numerous violations of basic rights including access to information, privacy rights and freedom of speech which is the essence of journalism.

They expressed their concern on the lack of inclusiveness and transparency by the standing committee of national assembly on IT in finalizing the draft bill, which has caused anxiety amongst the working journalists and the civil rights organizations.