Interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi on Monday said the government has identified over 500 social media accounts engaged in an anti-judiciary campaign and vowed that action will be taken against them in accordance with law and the Constitution.
Addressing a press conference alongside officials of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), he recalled that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s withdrawal of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s election symbol had triggered a “vile” campaign of abuse targeting the judiciary and senior judges.
Taking notice of the campaign, he said, the caretaker government had formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on Jan. 16 to probe the matter, with an investigation ongoing. “Article 19 of the Constitution marks a boundary for freedom of speech. Some people have made it business to spread lies as they sit with ‘two and a half people’ in their vlogs,” he said, stressing freedom of expression was not equal to freedom to malign.
The PTA official, meanwhile, said the organization had the authority to remove offending content from social media. In this scenario, he said, it could even block the internet and delete the objectionable content. “Social media’s outreach is enormous and easy, but people are not aware of its utility,” he regretted.
FIA Cybercrime Director (Operations) Waqaruddin Syed warned that the agency would take action against anyone spreading anarchy against the state or its institutions through social media. He said this warning applied to accounts operated from both within and outside the country. “We will fully utilize the authority assigned to us,” he asserted.
Noting that accounts from overseas were often affiliated with various political parties, he said people sharing objectionable content would face prosecution whenever they returned to Pakistan. Stressing that verifying fake news was mandatory before sharing it, he said the FIA had already identified hundreds of social media accounts involved in the anti-judiciary campaign and would submit a report of its probe to the JIT within the mandated time of two weeks.