Pakistan’s human rights review: Internet censorship comes under scrutiny


Published: November 3, 2012

Netherlands asks Islamabad to remove restrictions on internet access. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: As part of a review of Pakistan’s human rights standing, the Netherlands has recommended that Pakistan remove restrictions on internet access.

The recommendation is part of a draft report of the UN Human Rights Council working group on the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan.

In the draft report, released on November 2, the working group has listed this demand along with 163 other recommendations on the country’s rights record.

The video sharing site, YouTube, has been suspended in Pakistan since September 17, 2012.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf ordered the ban over a blasphemous movie trailer that incited protests around the world.

It is the fourth time the site has been banned since 2008.

Second review

Pakistan presented its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Report in the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, October 30. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar defended Pakistan’s progress since the last review in 2008. The Review, created in 2006, takes place every four years and is a state-driven process.

Pakistan will have to respond to the recommendations by March 2013 at the 22nd session of the Council. The response will then be included in the outcome report adopted by the Council in that session.

“It is a great opportunity as it is now part of UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations to the government and we can continue to build pressure on the government to do better on net freedom in the country,” said Shahzad Ahmad from Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan, a human rights organisation that focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for social justice and development in the country.

Ahmad presented a shadow report along with two UN accredited international NGOs, Association for Progressive Communications and Freedom House.

“This is first time ever that a shadow report on internet rights in Pakistan was submitted and a UN member state picked it up and put it as a recommendation for the government to improve internet rights in the country,” he wrote to The Express Tribune in an email from Geneva.

Internet-based human rights

Netherlands made the recommendation that Pakistan “(r)emove restrictions on accessing internet in the country, which runs counter to the criteria of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and the principle of proportionality.”

Internet-based human right issues were not part of Pakistan’s first review in 2008. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the ICCPR in June 2010 and made Pakistan signatory to the law which commits it to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to a fair trial.

 

 

Mumbai, Karachi press clubs for liberalized media visas


 

KARACHI: The Press Club, Mumbai and Karachi Press Club have welcomed the scheduled meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister, S M Krishna, and Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, to be held in Islamabadon September 7-9, 2012.In a joint statement issued both the prestigious press clubs reiterated their demands of free movement of journalistsbetween two countries in order to promote people-to-people contact and enduring peace in the sub-continent.The press clubs hoped both foreign ministers would give due attention to their demands.

In the meeting both the foreign ministers will review the resumed peace process, which began last year.

I the statement issued the press clubs have demanded of the ministers to liberalize the visa regime for the journalist community and should be made easily available.

It is pertinent to mention that the joint statement issued by Indian and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretaries after their meeting on July 4-5, 2012 had emphasized the need to promote media and sports contacts.

Moreover they also demanded removal of the cap on the number of journalists allowed to function in both the countries as currently only two newspersons from one country are allowed work in the other and vice versa.

The statement also said that more and more journalists from both the countries should not only be encouraged bul also allowed to move easily.

Sale of hard copies of newspapers and periodicals should be allowed to sell in other country, said the joint statement.