Blocking TikTok Violates Human Rights: Islamabad High Court

Blocking access to the famous short-video sharing application, TikTok, violates the human rights of citizens of Pakistan enshrined in the 1973 Constitution, Islamabad High Court (IHC) has remarked.

While hearing a petition against the ban on TikTok, Chief Justice IHC Athar Minallah ordered the lawyers of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to submit the telecom regulator’s justification for banning TikTok on the next hearing, which will be held on 22 November.

He observed that thousands of citizens used to make a living from TikTok, adding that PTA’s decision also discouraged people from expressing their talent.

Quoting PTA’s affidavits submitted in the high courts of Peshawar and Sindh, Chief Justice IHC said that only 1% of the content being shared on the TikTok was objectionable.

Objectionable content is present on almost every social media application and not just on TikTok alone. Does this mean PTA would impose a ban on every application which hosts objectionable content?

He asked PTA’s lawyer whether the telecom regulator consulted technology experts before banning TikTok, ordering to submit the names all experts PTA consulted before blocking TikTok.

Chief Justice IHC remarked that people’s religious and moral values should be strong enough to not watch anything that goes against established norms.

Banned 4 Times Already

PTA has banned access to TikTok in Pakistan on four different occasions so far.

The first time TikTok got blocked in Pakistan was in October 2020. Access was restored 10 days later after TikTok assured to address the concerns of PTA.

Earlier this year in March, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) had directed PTA to ban TikTok in the country. However, the ban was lifted a month later in April.

This year in June, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered PTA to restrict access to TikTok across the country. However, SHC reversed its decision after 3 days and TikTok was restored.

Finally, in July this year, PTA blocked access to TikTok after the platform ignored repeated requests from the telecom regulator to remove objectionable content and enforce an effective mechanism for content moderation in Pakistan.