ISLAMABAD (NEWS DESK)- The federal cabinet passed the E-Safety Bill 2023 and the Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 on Wednesday, along with the creation of a commission to carry out the legislation. The measures aim to limit the freedom of expression.

Despite the existence of regulators like the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), the cabinet approved two bills that are “likely to further curtail digital rights of individuals and negatively impact the country’s ecommerce and digital economy.”

According to reports, the E-Safety Bill 2023 wants to impose stringent rules on digital media outlets such web-based channels and online news websites. The measure also calls for the establishment of a unique regulatory authority to monitor compliance and prosecute “law breakers.”

Additionally, this measure gives the regulatory body the power to decide whether or not news about a person defames their reputation.

The Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 will establish and make provisions for “offenses relating to violation of individuals’ right to data privacy by collecting, obtaining, or processing of personal data by any means,” as well as regulations for “the collection, processing, use, and disclosure of personal data.”

“Personal data” refers to any information, including sensitive or crucial personal information, that directly or indirectly pertains to a data subject who is identified or identifiable from that information or from that and other information in the hands of a data controller and/or data processor.

Personal data will only be gathered, used, and released in accordance with the requirements of the passed law, according to the proposed bill.

The bill mandates that the federal government set up a panel called the National panel for Personal Data Protection (NCPDP) of Pakistan within six months of the law’s adoption.

However, think tanks and advocates for digital rights have expressed considerable opposition to the proposed measures.

According to a statement from the internet advocacy organization Bolo Bhi, “legislation prepared in secrecy and passed in haste disregarding input and clear reservations, serves no protective purpose but reeks of nefarious designs to further curb the rights and liberties of citizens.”

It stated that both legislation “if moved in the National Assembly of Pakistan, [should] be deferred to a standing committee for further deliberations, which [should] be open and transparent.”

Farhatullah Babar of the PPP also criticized the cabinet’s approval of the digital measures in a tweet, arguing that it was improper for a coalition government to hurry up and pass expansive technology-related legislation in its final days. not including even coalition members, let alone

Farieha Aziz, a journalist and campaigner for digital rights and civic duty, tweeted that Pakistan’s Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 must not be enacted quickly or a new PECA would result. Industry and rights organizations have both voiced their concerns. Although the ministry has received suggestions throughout the years, significant problems persist.
The legislation will now be forwarded to the Cabinet Committee for Disposition of Legislative Cases (CCLC), after which they will be introduced in parliament.

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