Civil society statement on continued network shutdowns and platform blocking in Pakistan

Civil society statement on continued network shutdowns and platform blocking in Pakistan

13 March, 2024: We, a collective of human rights activists and civil society organisations, express profound concern over the increasing instances of internet shutdowns and social media platform blocking, specifically in the lead up to and following the general elections in Pakistan. These actions not only infringe upon the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and access to information but also set a troubling precedent of throttling genuine political discourse including plurality of voices in the country.  

The arbitrary blocking of platforms, including the prolonged and unannounced disruption of  “X” (formerly known as Twitter), is a sobering illustration of growing digital censorship in the country. Such actions not only silence diverse political voices, but also create an environment which contributes to the spread of misinformation. Today, digital platforms play a pivotal role in shaping public discourse, and ensuring the free flow of information, through these digital mediums, is imperative for an informed society and fair electoral processes. The suppression of digital platforms, especially when initiated without transparency, often lacks adherence to due legal process and thus, undermines Pakistan’s international law commitments.

The complete silence of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is extremely alarming as they have failed to furnish any reasons for its actions and exceeded its mandate to block an entire internet platform. The absence of transparency in the decision-making processes surrounding network shutdowns and platform blocking and complete disregard for any accountability has resulted in an obvious erosion of trust between the state and its citizens. We are also dismayed by reports of throttling of VPNs, undermining people’s access to information and right to privacy.

In light of these concerns, we call for immediate action to reverse the course of digital censorship in Pakistan. Specifically, we urge the government and public bodies to;

  • Immediately unblock Twitter / X in Pakistan
  • Repeal sections of the law such as Section 37 of PECA that enable censorship and violate Article 19 right to freedom of speech and press freedom and Article 19-A right of access to information
  • Act with transparency on decisions that impact the free use of the internet, including for political and economic purposes.  
  • Issue statement of clarification, outlining the reasons and legal basis for the recent blocking of “X” and other affected platforms.
  • Avoid future actions that obstruct the free flow of information and adversely affect political discourse within the countries and take back all legislative proposals expanding control and censorship over the internet including the e-safety bill from the previous government’s tenure should not be revived.
  • Abide by Pakistan’s commitments to uphold freedom of expression and right to access to information under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We urge the incoming government, regulators and other public bodies to recognise that any action that affects the flow of information and limits citizen’s ability to express themselves, has a direct and lingering impact on citizen’s human rights including the right to political participation.



  1. AGHS
  2. Bolo Bhi
  3. Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD)
  4. Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)
  5. Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA)
  6. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  7. Freedom Network (FN)
  8. Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
  9. Bytes for All
  10. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
  11. Women Democratic Front
  12. Access Now
  13. Awami Workers Party Islamabad/Rawalpindi
  14. Aurat March Lahore
  15. Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan (DigiMAP)
  16. Alliance for Diversity and Pluralism in Media in Pakistan
  17. Pakistan Digital Editors Alliance (PDEA)
  18. Pakistan Digital Media Association
  19. Progressive Students Federation
  20. Aurat March Islamabad
  21. Joint Action Committee for Refugees ( JAC-R) 
  22. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum 
  23. Aurat March Karachi
  24. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  25. Zuka Books
  26. Amnesty International
  27. Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists 
  28. Pakistan Bar Council



  1. Muhammad Aftab Alam, Advocate 
  2. Iqbal Khattak, veteran journalist
  3. Adnan Rehmat, media analyst 
  4. Shafique Chaudhry, Executive Director, Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR)
  5. Haroon Baloch, Media & Digital Rights Expert
  6. Usama Khilji, Bolo Bhi
  7. Zoya Rehman, Women Democratic Front
  8. Abdullah Nizamani, Lawyer
  9. Zohra Yusuf, Council member HRCP
  10. Salima Hashmi, Council member HRCP
  11. Imdad Khoso, Journalist & Council member HRCP
  12. Ammar Rashid, Awami Workers Party
  13. Zeeshan Ahmed, Awami Workers Party
  14. Amber Rahim Shamsi, Journalist & Director CEJ
  15. Munizae Jahangir, Co Chair HRCP & Founder
  16. Ms Afia Salam, veteran journalist
  17. Ramsha Jahangir, Journalist 
  18. Najma Maheshwari, Hindu activist 
  19. Jehan Ara, Founder & CEO Katalyst Labs
  20. Uzair Younus, Economic Analyst 
  21. Hamid Mir, Journalist 
  22. Asma Shirazi, Journalist 
  23. Aun Ahmed, Progressive Students Federation
  24. Maria Memon, Journalist
  25. Absa Komal, Journalist 
  26. Atiqa Shahid, Gender researcher
  27. Raza Mahmood Khan, Peace activist
  28. Azeem Ullah Minhas, HRCP activist
  29. Saleem Malik, HRCP activist
  30. Jawziya Zaman, Writer & Editor 
  31. Hija Kamran, Digital Rights Specialist
  32. Nida Tanweer, HR activists. 
  33. Usman Zafar, journalist and researcher 
  34. Moniza Kakar , Lawyer & HRD
  35. Asfandyar Farrukh, MD Urban Brands
  36. Arifa Noor, Dawn News 
  37. Areeba Fatima, Journalist & Socialist-Feminist
  38. Samar Abbas, Lawyer
  39. Mahim Maher, journalist 
  40. Rahim Sajwani, video editor 
  41. Zia Ur Rehman, journalist and researcher 
  42. Taqi Shaheen, Artist
  43. Naila Raheem, HRCP 
  44. Aliya Syed, HRCP
  45. Mehr F Husain, editor and publisher
  46. Sophia Hasnain 
  47. Abid Saqi, Senior Lawyer & Former Vice Chairperson Pakistan Bar Council 
  48. Mubariz Ahmed Siddiqui, lawyer
  49. Aly Fahd, Paklaunch
  50. Taimur Malik, Paklaunch


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