Pakistan is advertising for companies to install an Internet filtering system
Recent proposals by the authorities in Pakistan to introduce Internet blocking and filtering systems has been met with widespread criticism and condemnation by activists including local
and foreign media watchdogs as well as human rights organisations over the past few weeks.
According to The Express Tribune newspaper, Pakistan’s National ICT R&D Fund, a division of the Ministry of Information Technology, on February 22, 2012 called for proposals for the development, deployment and operation of a national level URL filtering and blocking system. A quote from the report stated that “The filtering and blocking system will function as a firewall for the entire country and will have the potential to block the access of any specific URL throughout the country.”
Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization set up to defend journalists and to fight censorship, in its report issued on the eve of World Day against Cyber Censorship on March 12 asked the Pakistani authorities to abandon the proposals, maintaining it would result in the creation of an Electronic Great Wall. “If they go ahead, Pakistan could be added to the Enemies of the Internet in 2013" the report read
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also strongly reacted to the proposed plan of the government and termed it a move to further restrict freedom of expression, creativity and peaceful thought on the Internet.
In a statement the HRCP chairperson Ms Zohra Yusuf said, “Censorship is already very tight in Pakistan; 13,000 websites considered guilty of publishing adult and blasphemous content have already been blocked. On November 14, 2011, authorities requested mobile operators to censor the content of SMS and ban 1,600 words and expressions. Over the last summer, operators received the order to submit lists of Internet users trying to escape censorship, which corresponds to a system of surveillance.”
According to the statement on the HRCP website, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the HRCP requested the government of Pakistan “to put on hold the set-up of the filtering system and ensure that the measure does not end up institutionalizing Internet censorship and surveillance and is consistent with Pakistan’s obligation to protect the freedom of expression.”