Home Technology Internet restrictions imposed in Balochistan prior to elections; news website blocked

Internet restrictions imposed in Balochistan prior to elections; news website blocked

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Internet restrictions imposed in Balochistan prior to elections; news website blocked

Ahead of Thursday’s elections, internet services will be temporarily restricted in “sensitive” polling booths in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, announced provincial information minister Jan Achakzai on February 4. Additionally, the regulatory Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked access to FactFocus on January 31, citing content deemed to “ridicule, defame the Armed Forces,” according to a statement from FactFocus on February 2.

FactFocus disclosed that it was planning to publish an election-related investigation when the block was imposed. Ahmad Noorani, co-founder of FactFocus, reported that the website faced a “severe attack” on February 1, and efforts were underway to restore access to the site from his location in the U.S.

CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Beh Lih Yi called for the immediate reversal of repressive measures targeting journalists in the lead-up to the February 8 polls. He emphasized that blocking critical reporting and impeding access to information would raise concerns about the election’s legitimacy, already under scrutiny due to political tensions and recent deadly incidents in Balochistan.

Since the ousting of former Prime Minister Imran Khan from power in April 2022, mainstream news channels have refrained from covering him following a de facto ban, with documented press freedom violations by CPJ.

CPJ, along with partners in the #KeepItOn coalition, urged Pakistan’s government in a letter on Tuesday to ensure unrestricted access to the internet and social media platforms, in compliance with a court order directing uninterrupted access.

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