Pakistan announces ‘massive’ social media crackdown

Social media users in Pakistan have frequently reported receiving warnings about unlawful content on social media. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2019
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Pakistan announces ‘massive’ social media crackdown

  • Pakistani officials said they will start a campaign against online users who spread hate speech and violence
  • Various local and international organizations criticize Pakistan's restrictions and control of media

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities Wednesday vowed to carry out a "massive" crackdown targeting hate speech and extremism on social media, as a minister boasted arrests have already been made.
Officials in Pakistan are frequently accused of muzzling the media and targeting individuals critical of the country's powerful military establishment and have blocked hundreds of websites and social media accounts over the years.
Information minister Fawad Chaudhry announced the government was setting up a new enforcement arm to regulate social media during a speech in the capital Islamabad.
"We made some arrests last week and by the will of Allah we are launching a massive crackdown against social media users spreading hate speech and violence," he said.
Self-censorship in the South Asia nation is widely believed to be rife at traditional news outlets.
"Our problem is that digital media is over taking formal media so it is important for us to regulate this," Chaudhry added, saying: "Informal media is a greater problem than formal media."
The announcement comes days after authorities arrested a journalist for allegedly posting defamatory content on social media.
And on Tuesday an opinion piece in the International New York Times criticizing Pakistan's powerful army was censored by its local publisher and replaced by a blank space.
Activists and bloggers frequently report receiving warnings from Facebook and Twitter for posting unlawful content.
Local media also complained about pressure in the run-up to a general election in July to self-censor in favor of the eventual victor, cricketer-turned-prime-minister Imran Khan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said the army had "quietly but effectively, set restrictions on reporting" in a report released September last year.


Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

Updated 16 February 2019
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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

  • New office will be hub for Asian operation of paper and builds on relationship with community and its digital generation
  • Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has officially inaugurated Arab News Pakistan bureau in the country’s capital.

Chaudhry was the chief guest at the occasion and several prominent Pakistani media personalities and Arab News staff also attended the launch ceremony.

Standing side by side with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in Pakistan as part of the media delegation accompanying the royal visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Arab News Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani, Chaudhry cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the office.

“I am very happy for two reasons: The perception was building that the newspapers were not coming (to Pakistan), so once an international publication like Arab News (has come here) it certainly gives us a huge boost.”

Chaudhry described how the relationship between the nations was becoming stronger, particularly with the growth of Pakistan’s voice in the Middle East.

‘Secondly, I think this is an era where Pakistan is playing a very important role in the Middle East and to have such a major Middle Eastern publication coming to Pakistan itself shows the kind of importance Pakistan has of the Middle East and vice versa, we are very happy to have you here.’

Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas thanked the Pakistani information minister for his presence at the inauguration and for the efforts of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to help facilitate the newspaper’s operations in Islamabad. 

“The inauguration of our Islamabad bureau a year after the launch of our local digital edition is an indicator of our commitment to Pakistan and our determination to help create a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Abbas. 

“Ever since its establishment in 1975, Arab News has had a special relationship with the massive and incredibly loyal Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia. Today we inaugurate this bureau in Islamabad to ensure a continued connection with the community and establish a relationship with a new more digital and highly connected generation,” he added. 

Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani said that the new office would be a hub not only for the Arab News Pakistan edition but also for the entire Asian operation of the paper. “We currently have reporters across Pakistan as well as nine other Asian countries and with the help, hard work and dedication of our team at the Islamabad bureau we hope not only to better manage our operation but to grow further in Asia as well.” 

Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans. The project is the first of many new international editions planned by the Riyadh-based newspaper. 

Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG).