We thank the SR on freedom of opinion and expression for his report.
- The freedom of expression both online and offline plays a pivotal role in ensuring an open and free nature of the Internet. The private companies play an important role in this respect. Abuse of freedom of expression through any medium can result in the infringement of other fundamental rights and freedoms as all human rights are interdependent, interrelated and indivisible.
- Nevertheless, biased and hateful digital material which hurts the feelings, ridicules, insults and offends others could lead to violent and chaotic reactions. It is thus crucial to maintain the balance between rights and obligations and ensure that freedom of expression online and offline must be practiced with responsibility. There is need to prevent the uploading of abusive content promoting hate speech, defamation of sacred religious personalities or symbols, incitement to hatred, hostility, discrimination and violence.
- This is not just about hate speech. It is about its unintended consequences which worry us. Please ask yourselves what the victims of terror attack are thinking as knives are being plunged into their bodies? The killer with the knife has been encouraged to act after being inspired and incited. I this what we want?
- Harmonization of national legislations with international obligations is important to combat hate speech and incitement to violence in accordance with international human rights law especially ICCPR articles 19 and 20.
- Pakistan is a multi-religious, multi-cultural, pluralistic society where people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds are living together. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, which is preserved in the Constitution of Pakistan through Article 19 of the Constitution. Article 19 of the Constitution is critical in not only protecting the speech that a listener may approve of or agree with, but also a speech that he may disagree with or even hate.
- The Government in its efforts to ensure multiculturalism and maintain interfaith harmony in the society is taking serious actions against hate speech. The expression or voicing opinions to incite racial or religious hatred have been made offences under the law. The Government is also committed to protect right to privacy of citizens.
I thank you.