‘We Made Some Arrests Last Week’: Information Minister Announces Social Media Crackdown
Information Minister Fawad Chauhdry on Wednesday said that the government has decided to launch a ‘massive’ social media crackdown to counter ‘hate speech’ and ‘extremism’, adding that ‘some arrests were made last week’ to this end.
During a speech in Islamabad, Fawad said that the government was forming a new body to regulate the social media. “We have made some arrests last week and by the will of Allah, we are launching a massive crackdown against social media users spreading hate speech and violence.”
Fawad added that problems arise when people force their opinions on others. He said that some people were arrested last week for ‘failing to follow the law’.
He said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has devised a strategy to counter growing ‘hate speech’ and extremism on ‘social media’. “We have created a mechanism through which we will control hate speech on social media as well. A working group of our agencies, including the FIA, sat (to discuss this).”
Journalist Mazhar Abbas fears that the crackdown on social media could in fact be a crackdown on the media and dissent.
I fear a crackdown on media and voice of dissent in the cover of social media.
— Mazhar Abbas (@MazharAbbasGEO) February 13, 2019
Journalist Abid Hussain says he does not know how the regulation would be applied. He added that whatever the course of action, it does not look ‘promising’.
Journalist Shehryar Rizwan termed the move ‘sad, problematic and vague’. He asked the information minister Fawad Chaudhry to explain what he meant by ‘extremism’.
Last week, journalist Razi Dada was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) over remarks ‘against the state institutions’. His Twitter account remained deactivated for days after his arrest.
A FIR was registered against the Din News journalist under the Section 154 Code of Criminal Procedure. In the FIR, it was said that Razi was questioned over his ‘defamatory’ tweets against the judiciary, state institutions and the intelligence agencies.
Also last week, Forman Christian College Professor Ammar Ali Jan was arrested for participating in a protest against Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Arman Loni’s killing.
Both of the arrests caused a social media uproar as activist, journalists and politicians alike spoke against the move calling it a ‘breach of freedom of expression’.
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