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New rules titled, Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, under and pursuant to the provisions of Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996 and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, were issued by the Federal Government in February 2020.
However, serious concerns were raised on stringent requirements provided under the said rules with regard to the operation of social media companies, including, intermediaries and hosting companies.
As such, as per a statement issued by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on 03 March 2020, the said rules have been suspended for the time being and the government is likely to start a consultation process with all stakeholders. The rules, firstly, provided for the establishment of the office of National Co-Ordinator.
The National Co-Ordinator would be assisted by a committee of stakeholders, and would be authorised to block unlawful online content as well as call for and acquire data or information from social media companies. The term “social media company” was defined to include “an entity that owns or manages online systems”.
The term “online systems” was defined to include ‘Social Media Applications, OTTAs and any cloud-based content distribution services’.
The term “social media” was defined to include any social media application or service or communication channel dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content, sub content
sharing and collaboration. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube, Dailymotion, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Red.dit, TikTok and any other such application and service.
As per the new rules, social media companies were obligated to remove, suspend or disable access to online content within 24 hours upon receiving a written complaint either from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, or from the National Co-Ordinator.
However, in a case of emergency, the social media company would only have six hours to act upon such complaint.
The social media companies were required to deploy proactive mechanisms to ensure prevention of live streaming through online systems in Pakistan of any content in violation of any law, rule, regulation in force. This particularly relates to, content linked to terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security.
Social media companies are required to provide any information, including, subscriber information, traffic data and content.
Written by Sana Shaikh,
Vellani & Vellani
has leading industry expertise with a high portfolio client base. The firm acts for Disney, TV One, music channel 9XM and Independent Media Corp. In highlighted work the team acted for a subsidiary of Sony Television on the bidding process for exclusive global television rights for Pakistan’s cricket matches, auctioned for the first time for a period of five years. Lawyers have in-depth knowledge of media law and work on cross-sector deals and cases.
RIAA Barker Gillette has two decades of experience in the local legal market, with offices in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Kabul. The firm’s media law focus attracts clients such as Pak Media Communications and Merchant Holdings. Lawyers handle a range of matters involving online media and the music sector, from advisory and transactional to contractual and litigation.
Mandviwalla & Zafar acts for leading broadcasting companies and satellite operators. The team advises on agreements for satellite channels and distribution platforms. Lawyers also advise on regulatory frameworks for establishing television channels.
HaidermotaBNR & Co works closely with its affiliated firm in Dubai, Anjarwala, Collins & Haidermota. The firm’s TMT lawyers work on multiple cases involving corporate and commercial transactions and have significant experience acting for clients in the Middle East, Pakistan, UK and Canada.
Meer & Hasan is one of the region’s most established firms specialising in media law. The firm’s experience includes acting for the BBC in a case of unauthorised representation by a local radio station. In a separate case, lawyers advised on the use of insignias of Pakistan Armed Forces in the popular US television series Homeland, aired by US channel Showtime.
Media sector work at Vellani & Vellani is closely connected with the firm’s intellectual property specialisation. Advising local and international clients, lawyers advise on licensing requirements, the protection of intellectual property rights, investments, regulations and tax.
Founded in 1983, Irfan & Irfan is an established name in the legal market. The firm’s core competence areas are intellectual property, cyber law and e-commerce. Lawyers advise on data protection, online content and copyright. Members of the firm have served on government panels and committees focussed on national laws relating to e-commerce and digital information.
Khursheed Khan’s areas of practice include entertainment, advertising, gaming, theatre and film. With a broad industry focus, the firm’s lawyers advise on television and motion pictures, sports law and joint ventures. The team has in-depth knowledge of digital media, copyright and data protection.
RIAA Barker Gillette
Mandviwalla & Zafar
Ahmed & Qazi
Haidermota & Co
Meer & Hasan
Abraham & Sarwana
Bharucha & Co.
Irfan & Irfan
LMA Ebrahim Hosain
Azam & Rai
Qazi Law Offices
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