All Posts in Protection to Human Rights Defenders

December 16, 2015 - Comments Off on UN Expert Urges Pakistan to Ensure Protection of Freedom of Expression in draft Cybercrime Bill

UN Expert Urges Pakistan to Ensure Protection of Freedom of Expression in draft Cybercrime Bill

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye, recently shared with the Government of Pakistan his concerns with the draft Cybercrime Bill currently pending before the National Assembly.

Digital Rights Foundation shared its analysis of the Cybercrime bill with Mr. David Kaye for the statement, which can be found here.

November 14, 2014 - Comments Off on Press Release: 1st National Conference on Privacy Rights and Digital Surveillance in Pakistan

Press Release: 1st National Conference on Privacy Rights and Digital Surveillance in Pakistan

Islamabad, November 14, 2014: Digital Rights Foundation organized country’s first National Conference on privacy rights and digital surveillance today in Islamabad. The focus of this national conference was to start a debate around the lack of legislation and laws pertaining to cyber space with a focus on privacy. During this conference, Waqas Mir, a lawyer from Lahore having expertise in constitutional laws and free speech, presented a comprehensive whitepaper on surveillance in Pakistan. This whitepaper took the audience and readers through the history and development of legislation around privacy and surveillance in the country with a focus on recently drafted Fair Trial Act 2013.

DRF in partnership with Privacy International and Freedom Network organized this event to bring together members from all stakeholders including lawyers, parliamentarians, journalists, civil society, and the public to create a serious and continuous debate around having a consistent approach between surveillance and privacy. Multiple panels and session talks were held discussing global and local perspectives of surveillance in the digital age. Panelists also talked about solutions that could be employed taking examples from other countries world over while going over the case studies where common citizens, journalists, feminists, and dissidents at large have been harassed and attacked.

Senator Afrasiab Khatak, former member of National Assembly Bushra Gohar, and Ben Wagner, international expert on export of surveillance technologies were also part of the panels among other distinguished speakers. The conference concluded by recommending public to use their Right to Information more assertively and frequently and by demanding government to ensure transparency and publish annual report on the number of warrants granted for surveillance, and the number of offences prevented by surveillance or interception of information.

The key points that were raised during this national conference on privacy and surveillance include:

  • Growing concerns over tools / mechanisms employed by government especially after FinFisher’s license expiry in 2013
  • Concerns shared by the journalism community over how surveillance has negatively impacted the standards of journalism in the country
  • Urgent need of legislation around digital security to safeguard citizens
  • Understanding of government’s need to employ legal surveillance in the face of serious terrorism threats, however, with strict definitions of ‘national security’ and ‘national threats’ while being proportionate to citizen’s privacy
  • The need to rethink the process of creating the laws putting protection before punishment and not the other way around
  • Palpable urgency felt to have a strong relationship between activists and political parties on privacy and surveillance concerns

National conference on surveillance this year tried to gear start the debate around privacy and surveillance in the country. However, it will be furthered by the support of stakeholders and will be held annually to create a strong network producing tangible results and putting forward suggestions for the government.

Contact: nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

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Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online. We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country. @digitalrightsPK

July 13, 2014 - Comments Off on Why exactly is ‘Protection of Pakistan Act’ problematic?

Why exactly is ‘Protection of Pakistan Act’ problematic?

Signed today into law by President Mamnoon Hussain, Protection of Pakistan Act is an extremely repressive law giving unquestionable powers to armed and police forces. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the civil society of Pakistan has aggressively opposed the bill for curbing fundamental constitutional and human rights.

Several provisions of PPA, 2014 are problematic along with a number of vaguely defined terms that can be misused by Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). As the powerful elite of the country has most of the police loyalties with the legal system already in a shambles, PPA gives “green light for abusing suspects”, as put by HRW.

The new law doubles the maximum sentence for terrorism offences to 20 years and permits security forces to shoot suspects on sight. The scheduled offences are not only non-bailable but keep the burden of proof on the detainee who will be considered guilty unless proven otherwise.

The provisions of Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 also give safe-outs to police officers of BPS-15 grade or higher on the basis of good faith which can create huge troubles in the country where police is hardly trusted by the citizens.

Here are the details on why exactly the civil society opposes Protection of Pakistan Act and what are the problematic provisions. Please share the details widely among your circle to better inform your friends and families about this law which will remain in effect for two years and can have huge repercussions for a common citizen, bloggers, and especially dissidents.

protection of pakistan act 2014

ppa 2014

protection of pakistan act 2014

July 01, 2014 - Comments Off on Senate Passes the Repressive Anti-Terror Protection of Pakistan Bill against Civil Society Will

Senate Passes the Repressive Anti-Terror Protection of Pakistan Bill against Civil Society Will

In the wake of the ongoing military operation in North Wazristan, Senate has passed the controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014 unanimously with both the government and opposition consensus. This is a reminder for the citizens of the country as it has often been a case that controversial and repressive bills are easily passed when security situation is going out of control. The recent battle on terrorism gives an ample reason to the government to quell any dissenting opinions about the Protection of Pakistan bill and tag such opinions as anti-Pakistan.

Presented by the Minister Zahid Hamid, Protection of Pakistan bill 2014 was earlier passed by the National Assembly in April this year. Considered as one of the most regressive and draconian laws of the country, the bill created quite a commotion in the digital media fora of the country as the law clearly inhibits fundamental rights of freedom of speech and internet privacy of users.

Essentially, Protection of Pakistan Bill 2014 gives an enormous level of power to law enforcement agencies in order to tackle terrorism with judicial oversight to increase conviction. This bill enables the agencies to withhold the information of a detainee except from a High Court or Supreme Court along with reserving the right to appeal a judgement in high courts. This has been termed by the human rights activists as a bill which could potentially be used to palliate the Baluchistan Missing Persons case.

Digital Rights Foundation considers the passage of this bill as a clear deviation from the basic rights of speech and criticism that could be made on governmental policies, et ecetra. Protection of Pakistan bill 2014 could be used to suppress peaceful political opposition and the accused will be assumed to be engaged in waging a war or insurrection against Pakistan, unless established otherwise. Internet based offences that comes under the scheduled offenses of this bill are quite vague and can hurt the Internet security and privacy of a common citizen.

While the civil society understands the need of a rigid policy against terrorism in the country, the people of Pakistan have been suffering from similarly stern bills over the last decade and more. If anything this bill should have created more privacy and security protections for the citizens, let alone impeding provisions to hinder their rights to basic freedom of speech.

Also please read our open letter  to Senate of Pakistan regarding Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014

Contact: nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

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Digital Rights Foundation is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online.  We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country. www.digitalrightsfoundation.pk

April 15, 2014 - Comments Off on An open letter to Senate of Pakistan regarding Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 "Pakistan's new law: no free speech… and you're a terrorist unless you can prove otherwise"

An open letter to Senate of Pakistan regarding Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 "Pakistan's new law: no free speech… and you're a terrorist unless you can prove otherwise"

Irfan-Cybercrime1-660x330 Respected Senators,

The recent uproar over the Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 has created quite a stir in the country’s digital media platforms, and rightly so. The Government of Pakistan has recently passed, what appears to be, the most draconian and regressive anti-terror law in the National Assembly. The Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 has already been signed by the President and will soon be presented - and most likely approved - by the Senate on April 20, 2014.

The proposed law clearly inhibits fundamental rights to freedom of speech, privacy and peaceful assembly on the Internet. In its current form, the law could be used to suppress peaceful political opposition and criticism of government policy online, on social media for instance. In its schedule of offences, the law also lists “crimes against computers including cyber crimes, internet offenses and other offenses related to information technology etc". Also, instances where a person who commits any crime mentioned in the scheduled offenses becomes a cognizable and non bailable offense.

Any person accused within the sphere of scheduled offences will be liable to face a charge on grounds of reasonable evidence against him/her, and will be assumed to be engaged in waging a war or insurrection against Pakistan, unless he/she establishes his/her non-involvement in the offence, which reverses the burden of proof and undermines the right to due process and fair trial. The scheduled offence shall be punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to 10 years, with fine and confiscation of property.

The provision regarding internet crimes is so vague that it can be abused against  journalists, politicians, minorities, students, activists, political dissidents and groups who are using the internet for activities which would not in any way be counted and ascertained as terrorism. From a due process perspective, there doesn’t seem to be a very strong case for introducing cyber crimes in the PPO 2014, when a separate Electronic Cyber Crime bill is already being drafted. So, what is the true intent of introducing an additional or supplementary provisions with regard to “Internet Crimes”?

The state of open access to internet in our country is dismal. In the 2013 Freedom on the Net report, Pakistan’s Internet freedom status in 2012-13 was ‘Not Free.’ The introduction to the report states: Successive military and civilian governments have adopted various measures to control the internet in Pakistan, which they frame as necessary for combating terrorism. In Freedom of Press, Pakistan ranks 159 among 179 countries. In the planned Ordinance, provision related to warrant less raids is in violation of Article 14 of our Constitution.

With the Electronic Cyber Crime bill, Pakistan has the momentous opportunity to set the benchmark in South Asia and the Global South in right to free speech online. This right necessitates freedom from persecution for all citizens who use digital communications platforms to express opinions, dissent, or critique against the state. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” 

In an era where individuals, non-governmental organizations and international institutions rely on the multiplier effect of social media and digital news outlets to highlight issues of injustice and human rights violations, it doesn’t augur well for the country’s freedom of speech and human rights index to even consider this Ordinance.

Digital Rights foundation demands and calls on the senators to protect the rights to freedom of speech and privacy in accordance with Pakistan's obligations under international conventions, remove the clause of cyber crimes from Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2014 and revise the law with the consultation of relevant stake holders.

Contact: nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

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Digital Rights Foundation is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online.  We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country. www.digitalrightsfoundation.pk

March 25, 2014 - Comments Off on Pakistan: The Draft Computer Crimes Law Endangers Freedom of Expression

Pakistan: The Draft Computer Crimes Law Endangers Freedom of Expression

For IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Lahore, March 25, 2014: ARTICLE 19 and Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan are concerned about the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of Pakistan 2014 (Draft Law), currently being prepared for presentation in the Pakistan Parliament. Although the Draft Law contains a number of welcome procedural safeguards, several provisions violate international standards on freedom of expression. We call on the Pakistan Government to amend the Draft Law in accordance with our recommendations below before it is submitted for the consideration of the Parliament.

The Draft Law, which has been drafted by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications, establishes specific computer crimes and procedural rules of investigation, prosecution and trial of the offences. The Draft Law incriminates the illegal access to and interference with program or data or information systems, cyber terrorism, electronic forgery and fraud, the making of devices for use in offences and unauthorized interception.

ARTICLE 19 and Digital Rights Foundation welcome the efforts of the Pakistani Government to provide adequate procedural safeguards in the context of cybercrime investigations. However, we recall that the regulation of computer crimes engages the protection of human rights that must be considered in the respective legislation, in particular:

• Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Pakistan acceded in 2010, defines the right to freedom of expressions and sets out the requirements for limitations on the right. States can limit freedom of expression only in the interest of protection of reputation, national security, public order, health and morals. The limitations must be clearly defined in law and be necessary and proportionate to secure one of those aims. States must refrain from exercising this discretion in a discriminatory manner. Article 17 of the ICCPR guarantees the freedom of individuals from arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy and correspondence.

• General Comment No.34, which provides authoritative guidance on the interpretation of Article 19 of the ICCPR, states that extreme care must be taken in crafting and applying laws that purport to restrict expression to protect national security. Whether characterised as cyber-crime laws, treason laws, official secrets laws or sedition laws they must conform to the strict requirements of Article 19(3).

• In General Comment 16 of on the Right to Privacy, the UN Human Rights Committee states that interference by states can only take place on the basis of law which itself specify in detail the precise circumstances in which interference may be permitted.

• The 2011 Joint Declaration on the Right to Freedom of Expression and the Internet adopted by the four international special rapporteurs on freedom of expression representing the Americas, Europe, Africa and the United Nations (UN) emphasizes that standards of liability in cases relating to the internet must take into account the overall public interest in protecting both the expression and the forum in which it is made, (i.e. the need to preserver the “public square” aspect of the Internet).

• From a comparative perspective, the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention (2001) provides basic procedural safeguards and guidance on how to draft cybercrime legislation in accordance with human rights standards.

In the light of these standards, ARTICLE 19 and Digital Rights Foundation remain concerned that the Draft Law violates international standards for several reasons:

• Lack of clear definitions: a number of definitions in the Draft Law are unclear, notably the definition of ‘content data’, which partially reproduces the definition of ‘computer data’ as stipulated in the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (2001). This is confusing as computer data and content data are separate concepts. In other instances, the draft law fails to define important terms such as ‘information systems’ or ‘programme or data’. The lack of clear definitions in the draft law makes it more open to abuse and likely to catch innocuous behaviour, such as accessing a website in breach of its terms of service. By the same token, it endangers the right to freedom of expression. We recommend that ‘content data’ is replaced by ‘computer data’ in the Draft Law and refer to the Cybercrime Convention for a definition of ‘computer systems’.

• Lack of public interest defence for hacking-type of offences: The Draft Law criminalises unauthorised access to information systems, programmes or data. While the Draft Law is presumably aimed at criminalising ‘hacking’, it fails to provide a public interest defence when this type of conduct takes place for legitimate purposes, such investigative journalism or research.

• Overly broad cyber-terrorism offence: Section 7 (a) and (b) fails to make an explicit reference to "violence" as part of the offence of cyber-terrorism. Cyber-terrorism should be more clearly linked to the risk of harm or injury in the real world, and in particular harm against the welfare of individuals. It should not be equated with even moderate disruption of public services or damage to property. It is not clear that sections 7 (1) (b) (i) and (ii) would meet that threshold if read independently from Section 7 (1) (b) (vi).

• Criminalisation of “defamation against women”: Although the attempts to offer special protection to women (e.g. through prohibitions on threatening sexual acts) are laudable, we find the provisions of Section 13 of the Draft Law problematic. Section 13 criminalises “defamation against women” and other vaguely phrased offences, such as “distorting the face of a woman”. We recall that, in its General Comment 34, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that states parties should consider the decriminalization of defamation and, in any case, the application of the criminal law should only be countenanced in the most serious of cases. Also, the provisions of Section 13 fail to meet the three part test, as they are not formulated with sufficient precision to enable individuals to regulate their conduct in accordance with the law. We therefore recommend that Section 13 be revised.

• Lack of procedural safeguards against surveillance activities carried out by intelligence agencies: although efforts have been made to provide effective procedural safeguards against unchecked surveillance by law enforcement agencies (e.g. section 30), the same is not true of intelligence services, which remain subject to the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunications (Re-Organisation) Act 1996. This is a serious concern as this means that the Pakistani intelligence services effectively have carte blanche to carry out mass surveillance without meaningful oversight (see ARTICLE 19’s analysis of the Pakistan Telecommunications (re-Organisation) Act). In our view, if the Draft Law were to be adopted in its current form, it would be in breach of the right to freedom of expression and privacy under international law.

We call on Pakistani legislators to protect the rights to freedom of expression and privacy in accordance with Pakistan’s obligations under international and review the Draft Law in line with the above recommendations.

Contact: nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

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Digital Rights Foundation is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online.  We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country. www.digitalrightsfoundation.pk

 

Join the talk on Twitter @digitalrightspk or like us on Facebook!

February 05, 2014 - Comments Off on Jasoosi Band Karo – "Stop Spying On Us"

Jasoosi Band Karo – "Stop Spying On Us"

Under the flagship of international "The Day We Fight Back" 2014 campaign, Digital Rights Foundation started a similar campaign in Pakistan to fight against mass surveillance and censorship.
jasoosi band karo
Titled "Jasoosi Band Karo" in Urdu (Pakistan's national language), the campaign asked the common Pakistani Internet user to come forward and speak against the draconian State tactics of mass surveillance and targeted censorship.
The campaign is an ongoing effort by Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan along with various other civil society organizations and tech companies of Pakistan. International partner Electronic Frontier Foundation have endorsed this effort by DRF against the mass surveillance tools and systems employed by the Government of Pakistan.
"Jasoosi Band Karo" asks a common citizen to stand up for the basic human right of free and open society and fight against these draconian measures of mass surveillance and censorship.
Campaign site link: jasoosibandkaro

September 22, 2013 - Comments Off on Call for Participation: Digital Security Workshop in Lahore

Call for Participation: Digital Security Workshop in Lahore

 

Digital Rights Foundation is pleased to announce a day long digital security training being organized in partnership with Shirkat Gah and Bolobhi. Journalists, bloggers, writers, human rights defenders and students in Lahore are invited to apply for this workshop. The training sessions will be conducted on Thursday, September 26, 2013.

This workshop aims at equipping the participants with the skills and techniques necessary for staying safe online. One of the purposes of this training is to enable the participants carry out similar workshops within their organizations and share the experience gained through their networks.

If you meet the eligibility criteria and would like to participate in this training, please submit a statement of interest along with a brief bio outlining your work to nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk. In the statement of purpose, demonstrate your interest by clarifying how the experience gained through this training program will help you in pursuing your goals personally and professionally. You may also indicate how this program relates to your future aspirations regarding digital security.

Further information regarding the event will be shared with the selected participants. The applicants must send their applications by September 24th, 2013. Late submissions will not be considered.

August 02, 2013 - Comments Off on More than a hundred global groups make a principled stand against surveillance

More than a hundred global groups make a principled stand against surveillance

For some time now there has been a need to update understandings of existing human rights law to reflect modern surveillance technologies and techniques. Nothing could demonstrate the urgency of this situation more than the recent revelations confirming the mass surveillance of innocent individuals around the world.

To move toward that goal, today we’re pleased to announce the formal launch of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. The principles articulate what international human rights law – which binds every country across the globe – require of governments in the digital age. They speak to a growing global consensus that modern surveillance has gone too far and needs to be restrained. They also give benchmarks that people around the world can use to evaluate and push for changes in their own legal systems.

The product of over a year of consultation among civil society, privacy and technology experts (read here, here, here and here), the principles have already been co-signed by over hundred organisations from around the world. The process was led by Privacy International, Access, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The release of the principles comes on the heels of a landmark report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, which details the widespread use of state surveillance of communications, stating that such surveillance severely undermines citizens’ ability to enjoy a private life, freely express themselves and enjoy their other fundamental human rights. And recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nivay Pillay, emphasised the importance of applying human right standards and democratic safeguards to surveillance and law enforcement activities.

“While concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify the exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance programmes, surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Pillay said.

The principles, summarised below, can be found in full at necessaryandproportionate.org. Over the next year and beyond, groups around the world will be using them to advocate for changes in how present laws are interpreted and how new laws are crafted. We encourage privacy advocates, rights organisations, scholars from legal and academic communities, and other members of civil society to support the principles by adding their signature.

To sign, please send an email to rights@eff.org, or visit https://www.necessaryandproportionate.org/about

Summary of the 13 principles:

Legality: Any limitation on the right to privacy must be prescribed by law.

Legitimate Aim: Laws should only permit communications surveillance by specified State authorities to achieve a legitimate aim that corresponds to a predominantly important legal interest that is necessary in a democratic society.

Necessity: Laws permitting communications surveillance by the State must limit surveillance to that which is strictly and emonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim.

Adequacy: Any instance of communications surveillance authorised by law must be appropriate to fulfill the specific legitimate aim identified.

Proportionality: Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit sought to be achieved against the harm that would be caused to users’ rights and to other competing interests.

Competent judicial authority: Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent.

Due process: States must respect and guarantee individuals' human rights by ensuring that lawful procedures that govern any interference with human rights are properly enumerated in law, consistently practiced, and available to the general public.

User notification: Individuals should be notified of a decision authorising communications surveillance with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, and should have access to the materials presented in support of the application for authorisation.

Transparency: States should be transparent about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers.

Public oversight: States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance.

Integrity of communications and systems: States should not compel service providers, or hardware or software vendors to build surveillance or monitoring capabilities into their systems, or to collect or retain information.

Safeguards for international cooperation: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) entered into by States should ensure that, where the laws of more than one State could apply to communications surveillance, the available standard with the higher level of protection for users should apply.

Safeguards against illegitimate access: States should enact legislation criminalising illegal communications surveillance by public and private actors.