Archives for March 2017

March 25, 2017 - Comments Off on We’re Coming to RightsCon2017 and It’s Going To Be Big!

We’re Coming to RightsCon2017 and It’s Going To Be Big!

Every year, Access Now brings together digital rights activists from around the world in the world's leading event for the future of the internet - RightsCon Summit. And Digital Rights Foundation is thrilled to announce that just like the past few years, we'll be hosting a series of sessions at the conference this year and they'll be the reflection of what the team of DRF has been busy with in 2016.

First, here's a little background. The past year, we’ve been busy analysing the data protection and privacy situation in Pakistan and advocating for data protection laws and safe access to the internet. We concluded our year-long project “Hamara Internet” (Urdu for “Our Internet”) that trained over 2000 women from around the country on digital security and tools to counter cyber harassment, which ultimately led to the launch of Pakistan’s first Cyber Harassment Helpline in December 2016. We also launched two research studies -Telecoms Privacy and Data Protection Policies in Pakistan, and Surveillance of Female Journalists in Pakistan, along with a lot of other activities that had our attention throughout.

RightsCon Invite Website

Digital Rights Foundation’s sessions at RightsCon will be the reflection of all these activities, along with the discussion on some new challenges that are necessary to be addressed at the earliest. With this being said, here are the sessions that we’re hosting at the conference and hope for your participation if you're in Belgium, and support if you're in other parts of the world:


When: March 29, 2017 - 4 PM to 5 PM
Where: Clarity, 8th Floor - Le Crowne Plaza, Brussels, Belgium

This panel will discuss the different tools and strategies developed in different contexts to address online harassment. The discussion will be action and policy-oriented, looking to discuss solutions. The panel will have speakers from different geographic locations and organisations who will talk about the situation of cyber harassment in their respective regions and also the tools that they’ve applied (or intend to apply) to counter the said harassment.

The speakers line-up for this panel so far is:

Nighat Dad - Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan


  • Elsa Saade - Gulf Center for Human Rights, Lebanon
  • Wafa Ben Hassine - Access Now


When: March 30, 2017 - 10:30 AM to 11:45 AM
Where: Harmony, First Floor - Le Crowne Plaza, Brussels, Belgium

This panel aims at discussing the highly-debated principles of Net Neutrality and Zero Rating and their situation in the developing world, in contrast with that in the developed countries. The session intends to address the problems and discuss the best laws and practices around Net Neutrality and how it affects the open and fair access to the internet, user experiences of the internet, user data privacy and protection protocols, and also the future of the internet in reference to Net Neutrality and paid-prioritisation of content online.

The confirmed speakers for this panel so far are:

Moderator: Raman Jit Singh Chima - Access Now


  • Hija Kamran - Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan
  • Apar Gupta and Kiran Jonnalagadda - Internet Freedom Festival, India
  • Agustin Reyna - BEUC, Belgium
  • Gbenga Sesan - Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Nigeria


When: March 30, 2017 - 5:15 PM to 6:15 PM
Where: Klimt, Ground Floor - Le Crowne Plaza, Brussels, Belgium

The panel hopes to discuss the different kinds of surveillance and the gendered nature of surveillance all over the world. The conversation will also be focused on how data protection and privacy laws need to be strengthened and how a breach of privacy can have dire consequences for individuals.

The confirmed speakers for this session so far are:

Moderator: Nighat Dad - Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan


  • David Kaye - UNSR Freedom of Expression
  • Chinmayi Arun - National Law University, India
  • Carolina Botero - Karisma Foundation, Colombia
  • Courtney Radsch - Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)


When: March 31, 2017 - 4 PM to 5 PM
Where: Innovation, First Floor - Le Crowne Plaza, Brussels, Belgium

This panel aims at discussing online violence that is usually seen as a problem for the so-called “backward societies” around the world. The narrative goes that women and vulnerable communities in the third world are particularly susceptible to honour and gender-based crimes. High profile cases of online harassment leading to violence in offline spaces is seen as a reflection of an entire culture in the Global South, whereas it is couched in less cultural and societal terms in the North. The fact of the matter is that online violence against women is a global and universal problem.

There needs to be an open and honest debate of this culture-based critique mounted at the global south. Speakers from both side of the divide will come together on this panel to discuss the similarities and overlap between online violence around the world.

The confirmed speakers for this panel so far are:

Moderator: Hija Kamran - Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan


  • Nanjira Sambuli - World Wide Web Foundation, Kenya
  • Bishakha Datta - Point of View, India
  • Japleen Pasricha - Feminism in India, India
  • Hera Hussain - Chayn Labs

After the consultation with the experts at these sessions and with your valuable participation, we hope to take the conversations forward and move towards taking necessary steps to preserve digital rights and making the internet safe and accessible for everyone.

See you at RightsCon!

Written by Hija Kamran

March 06, 2017 - Comments Off on Fake News, Obscenity, and Cyber Harassment: February ’17

Fake News, Obscenity, and Cyber Harassment: February ’17

February 2017 wasn't an easy ride for digital rights here in Pakistan. As we still await one of the five missing bloggers to return home, the law enforcement has been busy taking away citizens' rights to speak online under the draconian laws, poor journalism ethics ruled the TV screens and caused chaos in the country, and Digital Rights Foundation's Cyber Harassment Helpline completed its 3 months of operation. Here's a round up of the incidents that had out attention!

Samar Abbas: Still Missing

While it came to light at the end of January that 4 of the missing activists had returned home, Samar Abbas still missing remains missing. Samar’s disappearance has been linked to the series of enforced disappearances of activists and bloggers at the start of January--Samar was reported missing 11th January, 2017. Given the lack of information by the state authorities and the returned activists themselves, there is no clarity on why the activists were picked up or the reason Samar in particular remains missing.

Samar’s wife, Najamus Sahar, has spoken about the emotional toll the disappearance has taken on her family.

IMG-20170112-WA0030 (1)

In a petition directed at the missing bloggers, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, through a single bench at the Islamabad High Court, ordered the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block pages or websites containing blasphemous material on social media. It is unclear how this order will be interpreted by the PTA. Furthermore, if the PTA chooses to follow the order what criteria is being used to determine content as blasphemous? While the PTA is at it, it would be great it they can also remove material containing hate speech against minorities and marginalised communities.

The Trend of Fake News and its Aftermath

The term “fake news” has been weaponised by the current US president to target any news outlet that dares to fact-check him, however it has also become a referential point of analysis for pervasive news items and rumours that are demonstratively wrong, yet are still shared on social media and even picked up by the mainstream media. In times of mass confusion and lack of trust in official statements, fake news can become an agent of panic and paranoia. In the aftermath of the Lahore Defence bomb blast/cylinder explosion (there is still no clarity on which of these is fake news), panic gripped the streets of Lahore as social media, mainstream news channels and WhatsApp groups were inundated by the news of a bomb blast in Gulberg. 31 news channels were initially served a notice by PEMRA in the wake of this incident, out of which 29 news channels are fined and asked to air an apology on March 6th, 2017 between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM in the same magnitude as the fake news was aired.

PEMRA Apology notice

For more clarity on fake news and how to counter it, read Hija Kamran’s post “F is for Fake News!” for DRF here.

Arrest of Nasir Khan Jan and "Obscenity" as a tool for Censorship

Social media celebrity Nasir Khan Jan is known for his videos and covers. However on 8th February, 2017 was arrested and detained by the Police on grounds of “obscenity”. While he was granted bail by a lower court in Lower Dir on 11th February, 2017, his case has been referred to the Cyber Crime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).


The police has informed the media that he was arrested under Section 107 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with “instigation” of others. It is unclear what exactly the police are accusing Nasir Khan Jan of doing. This is a clear violation of his right to freedom of expression in online spaces and a case in which the vague terminology of obscenity is being used to intimidate online personalities.

Read DRF’s statement condemning the arrest here.

Cyber Harassment Helpline completes in third month!

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline has marks 3 months of successful operations. Launched on 1st December, 2017, the Helpline has handled over 358 complaints in the short span of its operations. The Helpline Team hopes to expand and improve its services and outreach. Several innovative approaches towards outreach have already been taken.

The detailed report on the Cyber Harassment Helpline's first 3 months will be launched in coming days.