The government of Pakistan must immediately restore — and protect — full access to the internet and social media across the country. Amid protests and political instability, Pakistani authorities have imposed internet shutdowns in several regions, including the capital city of Islamabad, and blocked social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The unjustifiable restrictions leave people’s human rights hanging in the balance.
Internet and social media access is crucial to connect with loved ones, and to exercise the rights to free expression, access to information, and freedom of assembly. Especially amid protests and crises, people need to share and verify information, and exchange diverse views. The deliberate blackouts in Pakistan undermine human rights, stifle free speech, and will only worsen the impact of the crisis by keeping people in the dark.Eliška Pírková, Global Freedom of Expression lead at Access Now
There is a growing and alarming trend of authorities imposing internet shutdowns as a knee-jerk reaction to law and order situations, without regard to the impact on rights and freedoms, or any meaningful inquiry into the effectiveness of these measures. Pakistani authorities have disrupted internet access repeatedly over a year in response to political rallies and protests in the country.
People rely on the internet to obtain healthcare, education, and even earn their livelihoods. Hitting the kill switch is neither necessary nor proportionate, and can never be justified. Pakistani authorities must scrap their go-to tool used to quash political protests over the last year. The adverse impact shutdowns have on human rights is obvious, and it only adds to further social unrest and economic deprivation. Internet and social media access must be immediately restored in Pakistan.Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now
Access Now urges the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to protect human rights, immediately reinstate access to the internet and social media platforms across the country, and commit to maintaining unrestricted internet access in the future.