ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Information Commission (PIC) ordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to include minutes of a meeting and file notes on the banning of TikTok, the popular entertainment video social media site.
In October, TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese group, was blocked after repeated PTA alerts regarding alleged ‘unethical content.’ However, TikTok was subsequently reinstated by the PTA with conditions and warnings that it adheres to the country’s laws and the forum should not be used to distribute vulgarity/indecent content and should also not be violated by society’s values.
The order was passed by Information Commissioner Zahid Abdullah on a complaint lodged by Nadeem Umer, who was seeking information on the PTA ban on TikTok in Pakistan.
The PIC instructed the PTA to ensure that, within 10 working days, the claimant was presented with details and minutes of the meeting.
“The order stated: “The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is ordered to provide the following requested information to the Applicant (Nadeem Umer): the total number of complaints received against TikTok, the district and province-wise break-up.
Ban came in October but PTA lifted it with certain warnings to the platform
In this regard, the telecom regulator was also instructed to include copies of letters or emails sent by PTA to the TikTok management, along with copies of the letter(s) or email(s) it got from the TikTok management and copies of the notes and minutes of the meeting at which the social media site was barred.
Appellant Nadeem Umer had approached the PTA prior to the filing of the case with the Commission in order to seek statistics on the total number of complaints obtained against TikTok and other data from the Authority.
The PTA had previously declined to exchange the requested information with the appellant on the ground that the grievances had been lodged via the Pakistan Citizen Portal, but the PTA submitted its response subsequently to the involvement of the PIC and claimed that copies of the email sent to and obtained from the management of TikTok and copies of the notes and minutes of the meeting in this regard could not be excluded.
In its order, the Commission claimed that Section 7(e) concerning records relating to the country’s defence forces and disclosures relating to communications with TikTok would not adversely affect either the national security of the country or the commercial operations of the business controlling TikTok.
The seven-page verdict specified that a qualified and not full exclusion from transparency is granted to ‘noting on the archives’ and ‘minutes of the meeting,’ but if a public authority has made a definitive decision, as is the case with the instant appeal, noting on the files and minutes of the meetings should not be regarded as exempt documents.
“Therefore, Pakistani citizens have the right to have access to notes on the files and minutes of the meetings that led to the imposition of the TikTok application ban so that they can judge for themselves the input provided by the officers involved that led to the final order of the ban,” the PIC order said.