On Sunday, the government announced that the sending of ‘indecent, provocative and ill-motivated’ text and e-mail messages was a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison – the maximum possible in Pakistan.
The announcement prompted a strong reaction in the local media. An editorial in the Dawn described the new law as ‘bordering on officially-sanctioned state censorship’ and warned that it might be used to silence the government’s critics.
Meanwhile, the country’s telecommunication supervisory bodies were quick to clarify that no mechanism existed for screening e-messages in bulk, and the Federal Investigation Agency said investigations would be only be launched upon the receipt of a formal complaint.
The government effort to regulate electronic communication comes less than month after the announcement of a 20-paisa tax on the sending of each SMS – a move that was retracted soon afterward following public uproar.
What do you think the government’s motivation is in imposing the new law? Is the state right to impose curbs on the transmission of e-messages? Do you think the recent role of electronic communication in fomenting protest in neighbouring Iran has indirectly influenced this decision?