Pakistan: Government clamps down on digital creators

The Pakistan government has hammered through strict controls to digital content creators in 2020. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) condemn the regulations and urge the authorities to revise the guidelines after consulting with journalists, media organisation and relevant stakeholders.

The proposed Consultation on Regulating the Web TV & Over the Top TV (OTT) Content Services was published on the PEMRA website on January 8 with a deadline for comments on the proposal due on February 14. The proposal seeks to regulate online content creators and imposes license fees up to PKR 10,000,000 (USD 65,000). OTT content refers to content services accessible over the internet.

If passed, web TV services, producing content for entertainment, education, travel, sports purposes will be required to pay 5 Million rupees to obtain a license. News, current affairs and OTT services will pay PKR 10,000,000 (USD 65,000) or PKR 5,000,000 (USD 32,500) respectively for a license. Creators who earn money from content on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube will be required to obtain a license under the proposed regulation. Additionally, the regulation allows for the suspension of video media outlets should they violate PEMRA's code of conduct. 

On January 28, Pakistan’s federal cabinet approved a separate piece of legislation without consulting media organisations. The approved Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 requires social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok to establish offices in Pakistan. The bill empowers the National Coordinator of the Ministry of Communications to fine social media companies up to PKR 500,000,000 (USD 3,240,000) if a company refuses to comply with directions made by the National Coordinator to remove content. 

PFUJ strongly reject the “PEMRA proposals to control the internet TV and social media and termed it tantamount to put another embargo on the freedom of speech and expression promised by the constitution for the people of Pakistan”.

“Social media should frame its own code of ethics to be implemented for positive use of the most popular social media, web TV and OTT”, PFUJ added.

The IFJ said: “The dual blow of PEMRA and Pakistan’s federal cabinet signifies a concerted attempt by the government to curtail freedom of expression. The lack of consultation over these changes with journalists and media organisations undermines the free press and the ability for media workers to carry out their jobs on a day-to-day basis. The IFJ urges the government to review the regulations in consultation with media organisations and relevant stakeholders to create an environment that will produce critical journalism and empower both workers and creators.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
+61 2 9333 0918

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Find the IFJ Asia - Pacific IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram