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Pakistan Blocks X For Sixth Straight Day As Activists Criticize Shutdown

February 23, 2024
1 min read

Pakistan’s media regulators again disrupted service on February 22 to the social-media platform X, formerly Twitter, affecting users across the country for the sixth day in a row.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and human rights organizations in Pakistan had previously expressed concern over the restrictions on X in several parts of the country.

The CPJ said in a statement that public access to the network was “restricted” for “the fifth day in a row” on February 21.

The CPJ added that Pakistani authorities should “ensure uninterrupted public access to social networks and allow independent sharing and dissemination of information.”

There has been no comment on the outage by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), but Islamabad previously emphasized that it was committed to freedom of expression.

Human rights activists have demanded a full restoration of Internet services and access to social media, while U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on February 21 expressed concerns over the outage and restrictions on the freedom of expression in Pakistan.

“We continue to call on Pakistan to respect freedom of expression and restore access to a social media that has been restricted,” Miller said in a statement. “We have and will continue to emphasize the importance of respecting these fundamental freedoms during our engagements with Pakistani officials.”

The Internet observatory NetBlocks in a statement on February 22 confirmed the restriction in Pakistan, saying it began on February 17.

“Metrics show X/Twitter has now been restricted in #Pakistan for over 120 hours, entering a sixth day of disruption as the nation joins a handful of countries that ban access to international social media platforms,” NetBlocks said.

The restrictions were imposed as disclosures relating to election fraud circulated on the platform, NetBlocks said, adding that the measure “significantly hinders the exercise of democracy and media freedom.”

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party protested against alleged fraud in the elections on February 17.

Pakistan’s caretaker government and the commission have repeatedly said that the February 8 election process was completely transparent and fair.

The government suspended mobile phone and Internet services on election day in many parts of the country. At that time, the Interior Ministry said that it was done to ensure security.

Khan’s political rivals earlier this week announced details of a power-sharing agreement, naming Shehbaz Sharif as their candidate for prime minister.

The announcement followed days of talks among the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League, the Pakistan People’s Party, and other parties that did not gain enough seats in the election to govern on their own. They said at a news conference that they had secured the required majority to form a coalition government.

In the vote, candidates backed by Khan, who was barred from running, won the most seats but short of a simple majority needed to form a government.

With reporting by AP

The Washington Inquirer Editor

20 years in media business

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