Scare tactics

Scare tactics

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communication comes less than month after the announcement of a 20-paisa tax on the sending of each SMS – a move that was retracted soon afterward following public uproar.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?


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51 Responses to “Scare tactics”

  1. Abdul Fatah says:

    I would say, SMS containing criticism or something condemning the government policies shouldn’t be restricted, because this is the freedom of speech. This is the basic right of the nation. After all Pakistan is democratic republic. However, messages containig offensive strings, or wrong hoaxes should be restricted with iron hands.

  2. Asmat Jamal says:

    This law is to be seen in totality.
    1. No one has the write to send obnoxious, intimidating and horrific messages to others who has no concern with them. Such people must be punished.
    2. The liberty of speech and political views should not be curtailed.
    3. Matters related to terrorism should be dealt with iron hand.

  3. Keti Zilgish says:

    i like what Tanzeel Says:
    July 14th, 2009 at 11:16 pm: smses are being used for propaganda by both the taleban and the antitaleban. isn’t that slightly better than fighting it out on the streets or in this case, do our parliamentarians (representatives) feel threatened. listen friends, be patient, every dog has his day!

  4. Keti Zilgish says:

    Concerning what ak Says: July 14th, 2009 at 10:08 pm: When you differentiate between ‘state’ & ‘govt’ i presume you mean ‘bureaucracy’ and ‘elected representatives’, both of which, everywhere, have always been and will always be, in the pockets of the rich.

  5. symbian says:

    what i think is a good step to keep a check on activities since the crimes are increasing day by day. but our government’s perspective is not this, they are just trying to figure out who is against them or i would say who criticizes government policies and all. that’s democracy my friends. In fact democracy with novelty introduced by our government trying ti suppress our right of freedom of expression.

    secondly, millions of rupees would be spent on this project. ah! we are a third world country where people dont have food to eat and we doing these things.

  6. Waqas says:

    Frankly speaking, for the public democracy and dictatorship are just the same.

    No one would bother criticising the military or civilian leadership had they been addressing the publics concerns. But rather than solving our basic issues they just tell us to SHUT UP!!

    Enjoy “DEMON”CRACY

  7. anonymous says:

    Thank God!!!
    I was harrassed over the phone via sms from a shop owner from whom I purchased window glass for one month. Short of sending thugs, there was nothing one could do except take the nonsense and perversion, hoping the rascal would get bored.
    I wish I had the messages still, so that I could have him put behind bars!

  8. Salman Latif says:

    I must say I was immediately reminded of the Stalinist Russia as soon as I heard of it – the vague terms of ‘indecent, ill-motivated, provocative’ might as well be used to corner any person saying as much as ‘I hate Zardari.’ This is nothing but a state-sponsored censorship which hits upon the right of speech and opinion. What on earth has government to do with people talking between them, unless it isn’t public – and an SMS between two persons is obviously a private affair and taking that right away or screening it for some purpose is an ill-intentioned action by the government to stop the circulation of masses’ sentiments towards it’s corruption and unpopular policies.
    The media, the masses, the youth – everyone ought to stand up against the action and force the government to retract it – or the next thing we may have is out landline phones tapped and telescreens from George Orwell’s ‘1984’ installed into our homes!!

  9. Keti Zilgish says:

    Very well put by Imran, July 14th, 2009 at 5:20 pm: “The Pakistani governments have to get there act together with technology such as the internet…” I think all govts are sick. There are communally operated ISPs offering free internet access by relying upon open source software and voluntary labor all over the western world. Similarly you can come across communally operated FREE internet cafes, nonprofit healthfood (both organic & non-genetically modified) stores and the list is endless wherein at every possible step the profit chain is being sabotaged, left, right and center. Profit is nothing but quicksand. I must appreciate the way twisted Says: July 14th, 2009 at 3:40 pm, “a dead ant squashed by the bulldozer of its own stupidity”. Relying upon a govt for anything is like trying to make love to a corpse.

  10. Syed Hammad says:

    That’s the spirit…
    All of this is necessary to impose a democratic, people’s Government in this nation…
    It’s all in the public’s best interest…

    I’d try to leave it to this and tone my sarcasm down to this much only…
    With the despair and frustration of a common man not being addressed and he is left all alone by all the institutions that promised him of protection and prosperity, who gives a sot who is talking what about the Government…
    Its so sad where my nation is going, worst is the fact that I can’t do anything to turn it around, rather I might be having a share in all of this….

    Hoping for a miracle….
    May Allah help us…

  11. Tariq Mian, Canada says:

    The State is entitled to make any law, which guarantees the security and safety of the Public.
    But, The State can not enact any legislation barring a a healthy criticism coming from the opposition or the public.
    But going after the terrorists and criminals is the responsibility of the sitting government.

  12. Omer says:

    I believe Govt is just over reacting on this issue…how many of them really do care about these little SMS’s.

    there is enough material available on social websites like youtube & metcafe etc for each and every politician of this country.

    How could you stop them????? The most recent is Qamar zaman Kaira IN US…..

  13. Arafat Hifazat says:

    I think His Highness Asif Ali Zardari is tired of being the butt of all jokes. since when it comes to sms jokes, pathans, Sardars and president zardari are people all jokes revolve around (not to mention memon jokes too)

    Of course he is not happy with the way he gets portrayed in the text messages, so comes the royal edict. why do i feel like i am living in Orwell’s Animal Farm? :)

  14. sadat says:

    Govt. is too scared due to very low popularity among the masses. They want to control the rant of public but in doing so they are compromising on the right freedom of speech and privacy.

    If Govt. really wants to have good public opinion than it should start taking steps to improve life of common man and remove issues like electricity, law & order, unemployment and taxes etc.

  15. Ejaz says:

    Such so called laws will widen the gapes between government and people in general. Especially the young generation. They will simply start hating them. It’s just like they are seizing our freedom :(

  16. Linda Mayberry says:

    I am humbly proud of you Pakistanis. If I didn’t know better, I would say you were from the United States. Of course, that isn’t saying a lot lately, (like the last 8 1/2 years), but eventually, the will of the people will be heard. But you need to form your own “special interest” group that is against government censorship and freedom of speech. One will not be heard, but an organized group will be, if the group is large enough and tenacious to their cause.

  17. Ch Allah Daad says:

    No doubt text messages, e-mails and web pages are used to convey very nasty things about government, army, agencies and some individuals. Those spreading disinformation have crossed all limits. Stopping and punishing them has nothing to do with freedom of speech or basic human rights. They are more dangerous than terrorists, therefore must be dealt with iron hand.

  18. Linda Mayberry says:

    They are just testing how to stifle popular dissent in Pakistan. You can relax, right?

  19. Shahzaib Quraishi says:

    The motivation is simple: shut anyone up who dares to speak against the government. People would say that the government could have done that with libel lawsuits, but they forget that the government would have to prove the so-called propanganda to be false. A true democracy would have taken that path. The 20 paisa tax was meant to curb such mass texts, but when that failed, they had to come up with something else. The only thing they should have censored should have been anti-state sentiment. And should the government not be more concerned about intercepting the terrorists’ emails? and tracking them down to the source? The emails are nothing but a source of amusement for most of us, as they are usually very exaggerated. And if the government is seriously considering action against them, then it makes you wonder how true some of these email must have been.

  20. Nouman says:

    What a rubbish law to be considered. Totally disagree; freedom of speech is being kicked in the teeth everywhere in the world not only in Pakistan. Hate to say that it seems Mr Mush did a better job for democracy as being a dictator than lot of Democratic Politician. Speak your mind and they will ruin your life in the name of national security. I am even worried now about the consequences of writing these few words. I am Lost for words that modern politician can even consider this,there is lot to lose in every aspect.

  21. Mushrik says:

    Because the Pak Army does not want to be called Na Pak Army and does not like its continuing support/relations with its Taliban

  22. Kamran Brohi says:

    The content of websites and other electronic communications may be distasteful, obscene or offensive for a variety of reasons. In some instances these communications may be illegal.

    Many jurisdictions place limits on certain speech and ban racist, blasphemous, politically subversive, libelous or slanderous, seditious, or inflammatory material that tends to incite hate crimes.

    The extent to which these communications are unlawful varies greatly between countries, and even within nations. It is a sensitive area in which the courts can become involved in arbitrating between groups with entrenched beliefs.

    So if anyone thinks that this new law is against the cyber crimes policy of the Government, he or she should challenge it in the court. Let the court decide it.

  23. David says:

    This law is worry on the face of it. It purports to protect the reputation of civilian and army official. That said, it means there are still plenty of other subjects that are not apprantenly touched by this law.
    It is hoped that the authorities will use this law sparingly or else the courts may take a dim view of the whole thing. It will be tested in time, no doubt.
    Regarding freedom of speech, it should not be used to spread false stories about others that could damage their careers or ruin their relationships etc.
    There is saying ‘your freedom ends where my nose begins.

  24. Gixxer says:

    ridiculous! I think the government should have the the grit and patience to listen to its critics especially when they consider themselves as the successors of Bhuttos.

    I remember when Maulana Fazlullah used to preach hatred through his FM radio and the government officials in Islamabad and NWFP would turn a blind eye to it due to several reasons. It kept on happening till the situation went out of control. But on this very occasion the government was swift to impose a law which is totally unjust and deplorable. I think its time to declare Pakistan a POLICE STATE.

    Bol ke lab azad hain teray!!!!

  25. Salma says:

    The ones using it deserve this kind of law…hud hi hoh gai thi …it was such a bad influence on the younger lot….no civilized people use this kind of language just shows how we can abuse freedom. on Facebook on Facebook