Sub committee of NA Standing Committee on IT to meet today (13th August); no invitation extended to Joint Action Committee members

Islamabad, August 12: A meeting of the subcommittee of the NA Standing Committee on IT has been called on August 13. Civil society actors working on revisions in PECB2015 have received neither intimation nor invitation to join the meeting.

The subcommittee was formed during the previous session of the standing committee with the purpose of consulting with the stakeholders who had expressed concerns over the proposed draft of PECB2015. The Joint Action Committee, JAC, a group comprising of various civil society organizations and industry representatives was also one of the groups that submitted reservations in the parliamentary committee and has pursued the sub committee for a meeting.

Media Matters for Democracy, MMfD, as a part of JAC, has already submitted a revised draft of the bill to National Assembly’s Standing committee on IT and Telecom. JAC had also requested a formal meeting with the committee to discuss the proposed changes in the bill.

The new draft incorporates changes to encourage judicial oversight, protect constitutional and fundamental human rights and introduces protections against abuse of power within this draft.  Key changes made in the draft includes some definition revisions proposed for clarity and aimed at brining PECB2015 in line with PPC. Judicial oversight for issues pertaining to search seizure and arrest, decriminalization of offenses like spamming and changes in proposed punishments and other such changes. Section 34, the section that posed serious freedom of expression threats has been omitted from the revised draft prepared by JAC.

The draft represents a position of compromise and activists within JAC have softened their stance on various points of contention in the original draft, with the aim of reaching a position that can be acceptable to both the government and the civil society actors.

MMfD urges the government to continue the consultative process that was started by inviting stakeholders’ input and including JAC inputs in the last standing committee meeting by ensuring that the sub committee discusses the proposed amendments in the bill with JAC members, before taking any decisions.

The revised draft, drafted mainly through efforts of Bolo Bhi, with support and consultation of other JAC members can be seen below.

JAC Proposed Revisions to PECB15