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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Notice issued by IHC over social media site X closure in Pakistan

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) recently issued notices to the Ministry of Information and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) regarding the closure of the popular social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, in Pakistan. The closure, effective since February 17, has sparked a legal battle, with users resorting to VPNs to access the restricted site. Amidst the ongoing dispute, questions loom over the reasons behind the shutdown and the authorities responsible.

IHC Takes Notice

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq presided over the hearing of a petition against the closure of X. During the proceedings, the petitioner’s lawyer confirmed the closure of the platform in Pakistan since February 17. Justice Farooq sought clarification on a similar case before the Sindh High Court (SHC) and proceeded to issue notices for the following week.

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SHC’s Directive

Last month, the Sindh High Court (SHC) responded to a plea filed by multiple petitioners, including prominent figures such as Zarrar Khuhro, Amber Shamsi, and Zebunnisa Burki. The court directed authorities to restore access to social media platform X and ensure uninterrupted usage across the country. The SHC’s intervention highlights the significance of the issue and the urgency for resolution.

Disruptions Amidst Elections

The closure of social media platforms, including X, during the lead-up to the February 8 general elections in Pakistan raised concerns among users and activists. Authorities attributed the disruptions to technical errors and security measures aimed at preventing terrorism. However, the intermittent suspensions persisted even after the elections, prompting further scrutiny and legal action.

Government’s Response

Information Minister Murtaza Solangi clarified that the caretaker government played no role in the shutdown of X in Pakistan. He emphasized that the caretaker cabinet did not deliberate on or authorize the closure of the microblogging website. Solangi suggested directing inquiries to the Chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for further clarity on the matter. The government’s stance raises questions about the transparency and accountability surrounding the decision-making process.

Implications and Concerns

The closure of social media platforms like X not only infringes upon the freedom of expression but also disrupts communication channels vital for public discourse and information dissemination. The legal battle reflects broader concerns regarding internet freedom and governmental overreach. As Pakistan navigates through this legal quagmire, the outcomes will have far-reaching implications for digital rights and governance in the country.

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The legal tussle over the closure of social media platform X emphasizes the complexities surrounding internet regulation and freedom of expression in Pakistan. With courts issuing directives and authorities deflecting responsibility, the case highlights the need for transparent and accountable governance in digital spaces. As the legal battle unfolds, the outcome will shape the future landscape of online communication and civil liberties in the country.