Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) is concerned by the repeated disruptions in access to social media platforms in Pakistan. The recurrent disruptions in access to the internet, particularly social media platforms, is a dangerous tool being used to repress access to information and free speech.
A worrying precedent for the control and restriction of free speech online is being set in Pakistan by restricting access to information online.
PPF urges the relevant authorities to ensure that unhindered access to social media platforms is provided, particularly during the electioneering period ahead of the February 8 general elections. The underlying cause of these repeated disruptions must also be investigated.
On January 7, users faced difficulty accessing social media platforms for the second time within a month. While there is no official confirmation about the cause of the disruption, it took place when the Pakistan Tehreek i Insaf party was launching an election fundraising telethon. Less than a month ago, on December 17, 2023, internet outages were reported during a PTI virtual power show.
On January 7, NetBlocks confirmed a nation-scale disruption to social media platforms across Pakistan, including X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has not officially issued any statement regarding the disruption.
Using its official X account, the PTI has raised concerns about a recurring trend of internet connectivity problems coinciding with their virtual activities.
The party has asked the Supreme Court to take notice of internet disruptions, Dawn reported.
Ahead of general elections, all political parties must be provided with a level playing field and the ability to conduct their political activities. By blocking access to the internet, particularly social media, not only are political parties unable to fundraise and communicate with citizens, but the media also faces challenges in reporting during this critical period. Uninterrupted access online is vital in the pre-election, election day, and post-election period.