LUMS IIS 3rd Round Table Discusses Free Speech on Internet
Photos by: Wajiha Khuwaja
Free Speech on the internet and its limitations were discussed at the third Round Table Conference of LUMS Initiative on Internet and Society (IIS), held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on Monday, September 17, 2012.
In the third of its round table series on the Internet and Law department of LUMS IIS, gathered lawyers, activists, academics, journalists, advisors and consultants to civil society, internet technologists and other stakeholders of speech on Internet. During the discussion, internet law and policies were debated, stakes and opportunities were highlighted and a dialogue for possible frameworks was put forward.
There has been a significant impact of efforts by activists in Pakistan who have launched campaigns against blocking on the internet. To understand the idea of free speech on the internet, it is first important to understand to be effective in talking about Internet and Free Speech, it is important to have a platform and a clear message.
The discussion was particularly relevant to the growing debate on 'should there be internet regulation' in Pakistan. Individuals like, M Azhar Siddiqui, a lawyers who was involved in the Facebook ban on the internet; Nighat Daad, a lawyer and activist who has filed petitions against internet blockage of websites on the internet; Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA)'s Zonal Director Col (R) Nayyer and Worldcall’s Mr. Sadiq Yalmaz had utilised this platform to put forward their side of discussion.
In a situation where the government is trying to apply censorship standards, that are quite random than the free speech constitutional standards that we have in democracies like Pakistan; Or in the light of several recent events in Pakistan where the Government was allegedly under pressure to block website (such as the blocking of You Tube that took place while this Roundtable was happening - due to the recently released Blasphemous video) - in some cases their responding to censorship requests by authoritarian regimes that do not reflect consent of the governed. Should governments have the jurisdiction over many or most internet users in the country?
In order to explore the idea of what can be done to strategise un-exploitable use of internet; this roundtable was an investment into the discussion.
LUMS IIS is a step into exploring, understanding and trying to comprehend cyberspace in Pakistan. Recently, a cross-university interdisciplinary Research Initiative on Internet and Society (RIIS) has been established. The initiative aimed at exploring the development of cyberspace in Pakistan, to facilitate its study, to better understand its relationships to business, technological, economic, social, legal and other dimensions of Pakistani society. LUMS IIS undertakes projects that encourage better utilisation of cyberspace for Pakistan's development.
LUMS IIS has another project on the Internet and Law, which is trying to cultivate a generation of students, who would be interested in this subject of combination, where internet and law integrate in our lives, work, education and the very role that we play in society. With various roundtables, talks, research and moot courts, the idea is to create space for more discussion and exploration.