Civil servants refuse to accept govt ban on using social media without permission

Fed govt imposes ban on civil servants for using electronic, print, social media without permission

Officials ask govt to 
review its policy and avoid to bar civil servants from 
using modern technology for keeping masses 
update of public 
service messages

ISLAMABAD   -  The civil servants using social media have refused to follow the government’s instructions to stay away from Twitter and Facebook with the argument that why the government judges their performance through social media, The Nation learnt reliably.

The federal government has imposed ban on government servants for using electronic, print and social media without permission.

Talking to The Nation, a civil servant said, the federal government had introduced the policy in 2020 to ban civil servants from media and social media but the civil servants ignored the policy and number of civil servants on social media increased. 

He said secretary level officers are on social media and they are always busy in using it. Even now they issue notifications and other information through their social media accounts. 

He said the federal government should review its policy and avoid to put ban on civil servants to use modern technology for apprising the people about messages related to public service.

A senior official of the Establishment Division said the federal government has introduced e-office policy and on the other side imposed ban on civil servants for using modern media. He said most of time instructions have been shared to officers from top political offices through Whatsapp and they also take notices of social media information. 

He said no civil servant can be barred from using the media or social media. He said social media is the best tool to highlight government performance.

The Establishment Division has written a letter to all federal secretaries, additional secretaries (in-charge), service and cadre administrator and chief secretaries and asked them to ensure implementation of these instructions. The Establishment Division said in its letter that  kindly refer to this Division’s Circular No. 1/20/1976-D-3 dated 23 July, 2020 whereby detailed instructions under Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1964, governing participation of government servants in different media forums including social media platforms were issued for compliance. Under the Rules ibid, no government servant can participate in any media platform except with the express permission of the government. Rule 18 of the Rules ibid bars a government servant from sharing official information or document with a government servant unauthorised to receive it or a private person or press.

It said, further, Rule 22 of the Rules ibid refrains a government servant from making any statement of fact or opinion which is capable of embarrassing the government in any document published or in any communication made to the press or in any public utterance or television programme or radio broadcast delivered by him or her. Furthermore, Rules 21, 25, 25-A and 25-B of the Rules ibid bar a government servant from expressing views against ideology and integrity of Pakistan or any government policy or decision. Besides, they also bar a government servant from offering views on any media platform which may either harm the national security or friendly relations with foreign states; or offend public order, decency or morality; or amount (o contempt of court or defamation or incitement to an offence; or, propagate sectarian creeds, 

It further said, despite the aforementioned instructions and the guiding legal frame-work, it has been observed that government servants often engage themselves with social media i.e. websites and applications that enable users to create and share contents or participate in social networking/virtual communities/online groups. They, while using different social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Microblogging etc. to air their views on a host of subjects, sometimes indulge in actions or behaviour that does not conform to the required standards of official conduct, as envisaged in the Rules ibid.  Such actions range from unauthorised relaying of the official information to disseminating the wrong or misleading information to airing of political or sectarian views etc. In view of the foregoing, it is expedient to issue the following instructions for governing use of social media platforms by government servants:

It also said that the same instructions as are applicable to the government servants while speaking at public fora or publishing articles in print media, shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to the use of social media by them. As provided in Rule 18 of the Rules ibid, they shall not indulge in unauthorised disclosure of the official information or sharing of the official documents they come across during the course of performing their duties, via social media. In order to maintain their impartiality and objectivity in performance, they shall not partake in any discussion on social media or exchange or forward information or messages that express their opinion on political issues. They shall not participate in furthering of any information especially pertaining to government matters that, prima facie, appears to be unauthentic and misleading. They shall not make any disparaging remarks aimed at any individual or group or sect or faith and shall uphold values guiding the Civil Service at all times. 

They are advised to observe discretion and moderation in use of the Social Media and uphold high standards of propriety. It is, however, clarified that instructions contained at para 4 are not intended to discourage any constructive and positive use of social media by a government organisation for engaging with the public to solicit feedback on a government policy, suggestions for improvement in service delivery and resolution of their complaints. However, such an organisation shall edit their social media platforms continuously or frequently to remove offensive, inappropriate and objectionable remarks. It said that all government servants are required to comply with the above instructions in letter and spirit. These may, therefore, be circulated to all government servants belonging to all the occupational cadres falling in the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. Violation of one or more of these instructions will tantamount to misconduct and shall invite disciplinary action against the delinquent government servant under Civil Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules, 2020. Further, in case of a violation committed on a group platform, the ‘Administrators’ or the “Admin’, if they are serving government servants, shall also be liable to the disciplinary proceedings.