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Stakeholders Including Parliamentarians in Pakistan Provide Recommendations on ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016’

UNESCO in collaboration with the Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) and the Parliamentary Taskforce on SDGs conducted a series of Focus Group Discussions (FGD) with duty bearers in April – May 2020. The on-going discussions are aimed at identifying various gaps in the laws pertaining to freedom of expression and safety of journalists.‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016’ remained at the centre of discussion with regards to its implementation procedures and operational definitions. The feedback will be consolidated into a set of recommendations as proposed amendments to be discussed in the Parliament.

To keep pace with the inclusion of technology and digital platforms in providing and sharing information, ‘Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016’ was introduced to regulate cybercrimes in the country and to provide legal protection to citizens. The participants during the FDGs deliberated on the concerns of media stakeholders regarding the extent of authority the law provides to law enforcement agencies and instances of its misuse to incriminate journalists. Special consideration was given to the need for clearer definitions to avoid any ambiguity, while the need for independent judicial oversight mechanism for better accountability and transparency was also emphasized. Participants agreed that these concerns merited attention, in accordance with the fundamental civil and political rights granted in the Constitution of Pakistan.

The session with law enforcement agencies explored institutional capacity issues in order to compete with global information technology and cybercrime trends. Participants also highlighted the need to include more information technology experts to better understand and interpret the cybercrime laws during implementation.

The parliamentary members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Information and Broadcasting, and the Senate Standing Committees on Human Rights were engaged in the discussions. Together with civil society experts, senators highlighted the need for clear rules of business for government departments that directly deal with implementing the law, so as to not impede freedom of press and safety of journalists

All the participants unanimously agreed that freedom of expression must be ensured to strengthen the democratic fabric of the country. The FGDs were conducted under UNESCO Multi-donor program on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.

 

 About the Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP)

The MDP serves to further strengthen UNESCO’s work at a global, regional, and national levels, by channeling funds towards emerging priorities and the most pressing needs to achieve its mandate on freedom of expression. It enables UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector to address complex issues through the design and implementation of holistic medium and long-term interventions at national, regional and global levels. The clear advantage of this mechanism is that it allows UNESCO and its partners to achieve greater impact and sustainability, whilst reducing fragmentation of activities in the same field.

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