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Pakistan ‘Temporarily’ Blocks Social Media Platforms

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Banaras Khan—AFP

Interior Ministry directs suspension of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Telegram in bid to maintain public order

Pakistan on Friday ‘temporarily’ blocked all major social media platforms in an ostensible bid to prevent protesters linked to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) from coordinating mass demonstrations calling for the expulsion of the French ambassador from the country.

“Complete access to social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Telegram) may be blocked from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 16 across the country,” read a notification issued by the Interior Ministry to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority. “It is requested that immediate action may be taken on the subject matter under intimation to this ministry,” it added.

A day earlier, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had admitted that the government’s negotiations with the TLP had suffered because the now-proscribed party would issue directions to its supporters for blockades in major cities via social media. “They were more prepared than us,” he said. The ministry had also, over the past week, blocked internet access on cell phones in areas under blockade in a bid to prevent the demonstrators from calling on more support.

The move to block social media platforms follows a notification issued by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) in which it banned coverage of the TLP on all televisions channels and radio stations. The PEMRA notification said that Regulation 18(h) of PEMRA (Television Broadcast Station Operation) Regulation, 2012 and Clause 16 of Electronic Media Code of Conduct, 2015 required that all programming conform to the laws of the country. “Moreover, Clause 3 (3) of Electronic Media Code of Conduct, 2015 prohibits media coverage to proscribed organizations,” it added.

Therefore, read the notification, under powers conferred under Section 27 of PEMRA (Amendment) Act 2007, “media coverage of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan is banned.”

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