The forrum says that the original cybercrime bill that was drafted in 2014 was with consultation of the business community and the stakeholders and was only meant to criminalize severe offenses like hacking, identity theft, using sexually explicit images to blackmail someone and other crimes considered while hiding behind anonymity. However, it adds, that the government has taken advantage to add clauses to suit its own agenda which the forum strongly disapproves.
APBF says that the new clauses added to the draft deny freedom of expression to the common citizens. Qureshi said that the severe penalties proposed for even minor offenses are condemnable. He is of the view that the government can use the law to criminalize sharing information that the government considers to be; inappropriate, vulgar or “against the glory of Islam”.
The APBF president says that the current additions to the draft points towards the objectionable intentions as this law, if passed, will give unlimited power to the intelligence agencies and the government officials to unduly censor, harass or punish an individual merely for carrying out their day to day activities.
“The Individuals, civil society and the media could get fined, arrested and imprisoned for everyday online activities, and even offline conduct. Some of these unfairly punishable offenses include; Sending any email without the recipient’s permission, Political comment/criticism or Caricatures and Cartoons of politicians and celebrities, Testing a system’s security, Immoral messages over email, Facebook, Twitter, tumblr and blogs, Posting a photograph of any person without his/her permission, sending certain advertisements and other offenses like Blasphemy and defamation,” he added.
The APBF notes that “quite oddly, some objectionable actions like; Illegal access to programs or apps, taking down a website and certain kinds of phishing, have not been included as offensive conduct. Moreover, several human rights and civil liberties safeguards are also missing from the draft. In fact, the proposed legislation actually restricts access to information and obstructs international cooperation on cybercrime and terrorism in several ways. The Bill also imposes additional obligations like: Everyone from a cybercafé to a hotel/ blogger etc., would be required to retain traffic data for a period of 90 days.”
Electronic Crime Bill 2015 is a draft all set to be tabled in the parliament and proposed severe censors and penalties for the online activities it deems illegal or “against the glory of Islam”.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) already enjoys unchecked and unlimited power of blocking any content that it considers goes against the Islam or Pakistan.