On December 16, the Ministry of Interior issued a notification to direct employees of its 22 subordinate departments to suspend social media accounts and limit public interaction without prior permission from respective departments. The notification has now been challenged by a citizen in Islamabad High Court.
The notification was sent to senior capital administration officials including Director General Federal Investigation Agency, the national coordinator of the National Counter Terrorism Authority, the directors general of the Pakistan Rangers in Sindh and Punjab, the directors general of the Frontier Corps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the commandant of the Frontier Constabulary in Peshawar and the director general of the Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts (reported Dawn).
Islamabad chief commissioner, inspector general of police Islamabad and the chairman of the Capital Development Authority, and mayor Islamabad was also included in the list.
“The minister for interior has directed that no officer/official should interact with media (print/electronic) nor upload any official’s view/comment on social media or any other channel of information, except with the formal and written approval of the secretary interior or head of the attached department/organisation, as the case may be,” said the statement as reported by Dawn.
Mohammad Awais in his petition has requested the IHC to overrule the directive as it’s in violation of freedom of speech and also undermines the importance of public interaction by officials.
The citizen maintained that the social media interaction between government officials and the public allowed the citizens to directly convey their issues to higher-ups and find immediate solutions.
After the news of petition became viral on social media, Islamabad deputy commissioner tweeted that “Directed to resume online interaction with the citizens of Islamabad to facilitate complaint redressal, disseminate information, raise awareness [and] solicit feedback from the public to improve governance.”