Regional head of twitter grilled for silencing Kashmiri voices under Indian influence

Islamabad, February 17 : The Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir on Tuesday grilled the regional head of social media platform, Twitter, for silencing the voices of thousands of Kashmiri and Pakistani activists, projecting the plight of the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

In a special hearing held here at the Parliament House, the ChairmanParliamentary Committee on Kashmir Shehryar Khan Afridi led the questioning of George Salama, who heads the Twitter regional office in the United Arab Emirates.

Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem, officials of the Foreign Office, National Security Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and other senior officials also attended the meeting. Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif was nominated as convener of the subcommittee on Advisory Board on Kashmir.

Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Shehryar Afridi questioned George about the Twitter policy on human rights and freedom of speech and whether Twitter regulations did not conform to the UN Charter on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

George, who attended the meeting through Zoom, said that Twitter has a specific policy and discourages hate speech and upholds freedom of expression. He said that Twitter authorities would ensure freedom of speech to all and voices of minorities would never be silenced.

Responding to a question by Shehryar Afridi about the misuse of Twitter regulations by Indian activists as exposed by EU Disinfo Lab, George said that Twitter management always ensures freedom of speech on social media. He said that Kashmiri activists are free to raise their voice with legitimate accounts.

He offered to organise workshops in Pakistan along with PTA for awareness of Pakistani and Kashmiri social media activists on Twitter regulations.

Shehryar Afridi said that when he was the minister for interior two years back, Indian social media activists impersonating as Pakistanis were generating 80 tweets per minute from Indian cities to incite violence in Pakistan over the blasphemy issue. Afridi said Twitter unfortunately had double standards as no action was taken against Indian agents posting tweets aimed at inciting hate and violence in Pakistan.

He said over eight million people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir are being silenced under the influence of Indian employees of Twitter.

George said that Twitter has zero tolerance against hate speech and violence. He said Twitter discourages posting misleading content through fake accounts once reported. He said overlapping and duplicate contents are also discouraged by the Twitter management.

Shehryar Afridi also raised the misuse of UAPA black law by Indian occupational authorities and silencing of voices of Kashmiris. Responding to Shehryar Afridi, the Twitter representative said that Twitter position would remain equal for all parties of the conflict zone. “We are working closely with PTA to ensure equal opportunities to social media users,” George said.

Shehryar Afridi urged the committee members to come forward and show interest in heading various advisory boards so as subcommittees could be formed. Special Secretary of Kashmir Committee briefed the committee that to-date the Kashmir Committee did not have its rules of procedures. He also laid before the committee draft rules for approval, which could be published.

The chairman PTA briefed the committee on the suspension of social media accounts under the influence of Indian operators since August 5, 2019. He said the PTA raised the suspension of accounts of Pakistani users under the influence of a certain country and Twitter management responded that users are free to accept or deny Twitter rules. He said the federal cabinet passed social media rules under which social media companies are bound to keep physical presence in Pakistan. He said that once the PTA reports any account, Twitter has to comply within 24 hours.

Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem briefed the committee on the local and international laws on freedom of speech and freedom of information for the eight million Kashmiris. “We have already won our case of sovereignty on Jammu and Kashmir in the United Nations and the Jammu-Kashmir dispute must be resolved according to the international law,” the law minister said. He said the Modi regime was unleashing the worst human rights violations to keep its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.

Chairman Pemra briefed the committee that private and public television channels have been contributing hugely to raise an awareness on the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir.

Asked by Shehryar Afridi whether the private channels were also focusing on developing films and dramas on the plight of caged people of Kashmir, the chairman Pemra said that this year on February 5 on the Kashmir Solidarity Day, some channels did not turn their logos back and Pemra was going to issue show cause notices to those TV channels. Shehryar Afridi said that under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), private television channels and media houses are bound to project the Kashmir dispute and India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and plight of Kashmiris. The chairman Pemra sought time to present a report on tele-films and dramas on the Kashmir dispute.

Shehryar Afridi argued why Pemra was silent on the content of private channels’ dramas about the sensitive relations, the chairman Pemra said that the institution had banned three dramas of private channels but the court had struck down the decision. He said that entire Indian content had been banned by Pemra. He said that private TV channels were not developing any content on Kashmir and only content generated by public institutions was being run by the private media.

The committee chairman expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the Pemra on highlighting the Kashmir cause at private TV channels. The Pakistan Television representative briefed the committee on the projection of Kashmir dispute on state television.

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