Pakistan Warns of Prosecution for Leaking Confidential Documents

Pakistan's Defense Minister Khawaja Asif warns individuals sharing confidential state documents on social media will face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. The government plans to regulate social media through legislation, sparking concerns about freedom of expression and media freedom.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Pakistan Warns of Prosecution for Leaking Confidential Documents

Pakistan Warns of Prosecution for Leaking Confidential Documents

people, charged, official Pakistan's Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has issued a stern warning to individuals sharing confidential state documents on social media, stating that they will face prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, 2023. The minister's warning comes in response to the recent sharing of secret documents on social media platforms.

In a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on May 13, 2024, Minister Asif emphasized that the spread of such information can "seriously damage Pakistan's relations with its friends and brotherly countries" and harm the country's strategic and economic interests. Those found guilty of leaking or sharing confidential information will face 2-year imprisonment and a fine.

Why this matters: This development highlights the delicate balance between national security concerns and the need to protect freedom of expression and media freedom in Pakistan. The government's efforts to regulate social media and curb the spread of confidential information may have far-reaching implications for the country's democracy and its relationships with other nations.

The government has taken "strict notice" of the unauthorized dissemination of sensitive and classified papers, social, media, cases, official information and has decided to register cases under the Official Secrets Act against those directly or indirectly involved in the disclosure or dissemination of secret information or documents.

This development is part of the federal government's efforts to regulate social media through legislation. Last week, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved a draft to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, which includes the establishment of a Digital Rights Protection Authority to advise the government on digital rights, regulate online content, and investigate violations of the new PECA law on spreading, information, charged, official social media.

The proposed authority will have the power to demand information from individuals and witnesses, establish rules to enforce laws related to digital rights, and create a secure and trustworthy digital environment while promoting user protection online and safeguarding fundamental rights.

The announcement has sparked strong reactions from activists, who fear that the government is trying to restrict freedom of expression and media freedom. Nasir Zaidi, former president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, stated, "This government will also face public reaction, just like previous governments who tried to curb freedom of expression and media freedom."

Digital rights activist Haroon Baloch expressed concerns that "by curtailing investigative journalism, the government is also trying to reduce transparency in the system." Nighat Dad, executive director of the Digital Rights Foundation, emphasized that "the government needed to enact a official data protection law in the country instead of controlling the digital space and flow of information."

The Defense Minister's warning and the government's proposed amendments to the PECA 2016 highlight the ongoing struggle in Pakistan to balance national security concerns with the importance of free speech and open online discourse. As the country moves forward with these measures, the effectiveness of the new regulations in preventing unauthorized leaks and fostering a responsible digital environment remains to be seen.

Key Takeaways

  • Pakistan's Defense Minister warns of prosecution under Official Secrets Act for sharing confidential documents on social media.
  • Those found guilty face 2-year imprisonment and a fine.
  • Government aims to regulate social media and curb spread of confidential information.
  • Proposed amendments to PECA 2016 include establishment of Digital Rights Protection Authority.
  • Activists fear restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom.