Sunday February 24, 2019
Home Politics Pakistan&#821...

Pakistan’s Social Media Crackdown to deter anti-military content led to curbing freedom of Expression and Victimizing Political Activists

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government last Sunday ordered the cybercrime department of the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against activists "dishonoring" the national armed forces through social media.

0
//
A man explores social media on a computer at an internet club in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 11, 2016. source-VOA

Islamabad, Pakistan, May 20, 2017:– A Pakistani government crackdown on social media to deter anti-military content has prompted accusations of curbing freedom of expression and victimizing political activists.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government last Sunday ordered the cybercrime department of the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against activists “dishonoring” the national armed forces through social media.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

Authorities have since detained and interrogated an unspecified number of activists and seized their computers and cellphones. Most of the detainees belong to the opposition Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, headed by Imran Khan.

An independent watchdog group, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), has harshly criticized the crackdown. In a statement Friday, it demanded an end to “arbitrary curbs” on freedom of expression and a “climate of intimidation” of political activists, bloggers, journalists and other civil society activists.

FILE - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan presents the 2016 annual human rights report, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 10, 2017. The report offered a mixed report card in its annual look at the state of human rights in Pakistan.
FILE – The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan presents the 2016 annual human rights report, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 10, 2017. The report offered a mixed report card in its annual look at the state of human rights in Pakistan, VOA

‘Hostility’ toward free speech

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

“We hope the authorities realize how the prevailing situation demonstrates their hostility towards freedom of expression,” the HRCP said.

Khan has also accused the government of abusing the cybercrime law to “politically victimize” PTI’s social media activists. The opposition politician has been organizing street protests to pressure Sharif to resign, accusing him of corruption.

“Do not force PTI to come out on to the streets. We will never let you muzzle public dissent against you,” Khan warned the Sharif government while addressing a party rally in the southwestern city of Quetta on Friday.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

He alleged that the ruling party through fake accounts had unleashed an anti-army campaign in order to provoke the crackdown on social media activists of PTI. Khan’s party has been good at using social media to mobilize public support and highlight alleged corruption cases against government leaders.

The Sharif government has defended the punitive proceedings against social media activists, saying the constitution does not allow citizens to criticize the national armed forces.

FILE - Pakistan army soldiers gather at a forward area post on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, in Tatta Pani, 200 kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 1, 2016.
FILE – Pakistan army soldiers gather at a forward area post on the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India, in Tatta Pani, 200 kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 1, 2016. VOA

‘Serious offense’

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

“Ridiculing the Pakistan army or its officers on social media in the name of freedom of speech is unacceptable” and “a serious offense” under the law, the federal interior minister warned while ordering authorities to arrest and take “severe” action against those involved in such “condemnable” activities.

In its statement, HRCP dismissed those assertions and reminded authorities that the constitution also says any restriction with regard to freedom of speech “must be reasonable and shall not take effect if provided by law.”

The powerful military has ruled Pakistan at three different times, for a total of more than three decades, through direct coups against civilian governments. Critics say it continues to influence political affairs, particularly foreign policy.

The military, particularly its spy agency, also has long faced foreign criticism for allegedly harboring militants involved in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and India.

Analysts say that despite the controversies surrounding the military, the institution has benefited from constitutional provisions that curtail criticism of it. (VOA)

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

Next Story

U.N. Urges Egypt To Halt All Executions Based On Confessions Obtained Against Torture

“There is significant cause for concern that due process and fair trial guarantees may not have been followed in some or all of these cases, and that the very serious allegations concerning the use of torture were not properly investigated,” Colville said.

0
Egypt
Family members of those convicted and executed for the killing of public prosecutor Hisham Barakat gather at Zynhom morgue in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 20, 2019, as they wait for their bodies to be released. VOA

The U.N. Human Rights Office is urging Egypt to halt all executions and to conduct investigations into all allegations that people are subjected to the death penalty based on confessions obtained under torture.

Egypt has executed 15 people in February and the U.N. Human Rights Office notes the month is not yet over. The agency reports nine people were executed this week in a case related to the killing of Egypt’s General Prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.

Regarding six other killings earlier this month, it says three men were convicted of assassinating a police officer and three others in connection with the murder of the son of a judge.

Human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said in all cases the defendants have told the court they were subjected to torture to make them confess to the crimes of which they were accused.

FILE - A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015.
A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015. VOA

Please enter facebook post url.

In June 2017, the U.N. Committee against Torture completed a four-year confidential inquiry and concluded that torture is “practiced systematically” in Egypt. Colville told VOA the recent allegations of torture, in almost all of these cases, come against this well-established backdrop that torture is endemic in Egypt.

Also Read: UN Nuclear Watchdog Claims, Iran Still Sticks on The Deal Terms

“If torture was used to make a confession a considerable part of the prosecution’s case, then that should not be admitted in court. That confession produced under torture should not be admissible. And when these allegations have been brought up by the defense lawyers and so on, our belief is they are not being taken seriously enough by the courts,” he said.

Colville said a number of individuals convicted under similar circumstances in Egypt have exhausted all legal proceedings. He says they currently are on death row at imminent risk of execution. (VOA)