Archives for October 2018

October 31, 2018 - Comments Off on End culture of impunity for crimes against journalists

End culture of impunity for crimes against journalists

Dr Rasmus Nielsen, Director of Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford says ‘Journalism is an imperfect but important part of democracy: we as citizens are empowered to make meaningful decisions about ideals, interests and aspirations – about who we vote for, but also whether we want to get engaged in other ways. The precondition for that is knowing something about the world that goes beyond your personal experience.’

Journalists play an important role in helping democracies prosper and fill the gap between the masses and the government. A journalist’s calling is not only tough but often also life threatening. They have to deal with censorship, pressure, threats, physical abuse, violent attacks or mortal violence.

November 2 every year is celebrated as the “UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists” since 2013.

As per UNESCO data 1010 journalists have been killed between 2006 – 2017 in the line of duty.



This is not a new phenomenon nor is it limited to any specific country or region; however recently the safety of journalists has seen a worsening increase. Jamal Khashoggi’s death under mysterious circumstances a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi Regime speaks volumes about the threats journalists have to deal with. Apart from such incidents journalists also lose their life while reporting from the field like Shah Marai an Agence France Press correspondent, killed in an attack by ISIS in Afghanistan in April this year. A Judge Malaysian sentenced two Reuters reporters Wa Lone, 32 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, to 7 years jail for being guilty of breaching a law on state secrets. A world famous political cartoonist, Zunar, or Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, faces 43 years of jail in Malasia, 9 of his books have been banned and his house raided to look for incriminating evidence. Danial Pearl of the Wall Street Journal was beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan while following a lead for a story.

As with journalists from many countries, Pakistani journalists also endure pressure for being part of the journalist community; may it be in the form of internal or external pressure, censorship or even death. According to Committee to Protect Journalists, 60 journalists were killed in Pakistan since 1998 to date where the motive for killing was confirmed.

Recently, Cyril Almedia Assistant Editor and Columnist for Dawn was put on the Exit Control List for publishing an interview of former PM Nawaz Sharif. Saleem Shahzad was killed and his body was recovered from Upper Jhelum Canal by Pakistan Navy divers after his book about alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistani establishment was published. Wali Khan of GEO News was killed by allegedly by Saulat Mirza and Faisal Mota of a Political party’s militant wing in Karachi, they were sentenced to death by a court in March 2015.

As social media is the new medium for spreading news among the masses, this is fast becoming an unsafe zone for journalists. Now everything posted in Social Media especially by female journalists receives backlash in shape of harassment and threats online resulting in many opting to self-censorship.

Apart from duties journalists are supposed to carry out under the umbrella of “work” they are human beings also with a life outside their work which should be recognized and considered.

Killing of or disappearance of journalists under the garb of ‘national interest’ is a violation of human rights; while those who carry out these “crimes” against journalists are not held accountable. Many now feel that it is about time “national interest” is defined clearly so that people understand where the line is, and think before crossing it; this will also prevent the argument given by people in power when they want media to not discuss issues that exposes them.

Author: Umaima Tahir Wadood

October 25, 2018 - Comments Off on The Issue with PTA’s Newest Initiative: Unravelling DIRBS

The Issue with PTA’s Newest Initiative: Unravelling DIRBS


The news that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is looking to block unregistered mobile phones after October 20th spread like wildfire at the beginning of last week. The PTA announced that it planned on releasing the Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) in order to regulate ‘fake or smuggled sets which post health hazards’. According to PTA, the DIRBS will help to regulate the issue of counterfeit mobile sets which directly have an affect on mobile phone distributors and operators, consumers and the government.

While the move in itself has had very mixed reactions from the general public, a delegation from All Mobile Union had a meeting with the Minister of State regarding the issue and conveyed their concerns regarding such a system being introduced in Pakistan. The final verdict regarding DIRBS being introduced is still on hold, however we’d like to highlight some of our concerns with the system and its application in Pakistan.


According to a report released by PTA in May 2018, the number of mobile phones subscribers in Pakistan has crossed 150 million and 59 million of these subscribers use 3G/4G services. This implies many users in Pakistan are not necessarily smartphone users but we have a significant amount of the population using all sorts of smart phones. Pakistan’s GDP per capita income is $1624 which means most of the population cannot afford high end smartphones which is the reason for the proliferation of cheaper alternatives which are not heavy on the pocket and also provide the basic services essential for a smartphone. Introducing DIRBS would have a significant impact on the most disadvantaged smartphone users in Pakistan and will also affect the wider smartphone market in the country.

DIRBS requires the IMEI number (International Mobile Equipment Identity number) which is a potentially useful tool to trace mobile and other SIM-enabled devices however the application of the same may be impractical.  DIRBS would require every user to send their IMEI to 8484 to check the status of registration with the PTA. PTA having this information regarding a device is unnecessary and will have a significant impact on user privacy and data. With mandatory biometric systems for registration of mobile sims in Pakistan, this additional layer of registration is superfluous, especially since the PTA has not provided any specific reasons for this move.

DIRBS is a system that keeps substantial information about the user with itself, but do we really know why this information is needed? The system’s data protection and privacy policies are not defined by PTA and users still have no idea who will have access to this information. While DIRBS might be a good step for regulation on unregistered mobile phones, we still need to keep the larger political landscape of Pakistan in mind while introducing such a system. Campaigns around buying a mobile phone which is approved by PTA is the first step to go and such concrete measures should only be adopted when there are minimal users of unregistered mobile phone users in Pakistan.

Author: Seerat Khan and Danish Umar


October 16, 2018 - Comments Off on Press Release: Digital Rights Foundation’s Cyber Harassment Helpline releases it’s bi-annual report

Press Release: Digital Rights Foundation’s Cyber Harassment Helpline releases it’s bi-annual report

15 October, 2018 - Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), a non-profit organization, has released its Cyber Harassment Helpline: Bi Annual Report (December 2016 - May 2018) - a significant launch that marks the ongoing success in the battle against cyber harassment and abuse.

The report is a compilation of data collected by the Helpline which highlights the nature and extent of the problem of online harassment. The report also contains recommendations for public bodies to improve their institutional response to online harassment.

The Cyber Harassment Helpline was launched on December 1, 2016 and it is Pakistan’s first dedicated helpline that addresses issues of online abuse and violence by providing a free, safe, gender-sensitive and confidential service. It provides legal advice, digital security support, psychological counselling and referral network to victims of online harassment and abuse. The toll free number [0800-39393] is available everyday from 9am to 5pm.

“The past 1.5 years have solidified our conviction of working towards a tangible movement that results in a safe and secure online space for both women and men. We pledge to continue to provide victims a safe arena where they can share their experiences and become empowered to have control over their situation and continue to make informed  decisions.” - Nighat Dad

This report celebrates the 1.5 year milestone of the helpline and during this time, the helpline received 1,908 calls from December 1, 2016 till May 30, 2018. The helpline is operational everyday including Saturday and Sunday with an average of 83 calls each month where callers came forward with their stories and complaints.

63% of the calls at the Helpline were by women, whereas 37% of the callers were by men--however several men were calling on behalf of other women. Facebook is the most widely used platform in Pakistan, which is reflected in the fact that 43% of the helpline callers experienced harassment there.

The Helpline has strict privacy and confidentiality policies in place, and only non-personally identifiable information is collected from our callers with informed consent. While 19% of the callers did not want to disclose their location, we were able to identify that most of our callers on the Helpline were from Punjab (54%). The Helpline also received calls from Sindh (16%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (4%), Balochistan (1%), Azad Kashmir and FATA (1%) and the Federal Capital, Islamabad (6%).

Building on this data, DRF has put forward recommendations for the government and law enforcement agencies to improve the reporting mechanism regarding online violence. The rules of PECA (The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016) drafted by Ministry of Information Technology need to be made public to expand the rights available to the citizens of Pakistan. There is also an urgent need to build the technical and financial capacity of the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C), FIA to deal with the unprecedented complaints more effective and efficiently. The report also makes recommendations to build capacity of FIA to deal with cases in foreign jurisdictions with officers getting specialized training in international laws engaged by the NR3C. Furthermore recommendations include establishing a rapid response cell that is operational 24/7 in addition to the operations of NR3C. DRF also mentioned that at least 33%  of Investigation Officers and Prosecutors should be women and the entire staff of the NR3C should be given training in gender sensitivity.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

Contact person:
Nighat Dad

Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation

October 10, 2018 - Comments Off on 5 Steps to Heal From a Traumatic Experience

5 Steps to Heal From a Traumatic Experience

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Have you ever been a victim of cyber harassment? Cyber harassment and other forms of distressing experiences can be traumatic to deal with. Trauma can make us feel disconnected and numb but that doesn’t mean that this will last forever.

Cyber harassment can create a negative connotation to one’s self esteem which causes them to doubt their self – worth. It can and does cause people to suffer from severe anxiety and depression. This can hamper with a person’s ability to lead a productive, happy and stable life. It adversely affects a person’s mental and physical health and can be hard to explain to other people what you are going through.

Healing is a choice that you SHOULD make. There is nothing better than having control over your own life and self. So, here are 5 things you can do that can make your healing journey easier:

Be willing to heal

Sometimes it is very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but once you do, there should be no turning back. Healing from something doesn’t happen overnight, but it takes time. While you are on the road to recovery, do not give up, stay firm and know that things will get better and so will you.

Don’t give into isolating

When you’re trying to recover from a trauma, it is important not to completely isolate yourself. While it is necessary to have time alone to recollect your thoughts and emotions, it is also vital to take a break to connect with your family or other relationships that make you feel respected and secure.

Take it easy

When you are in your healing period, know that it is not going to be a straight road always. There will be times when you doubt yourself, when you feel like you won’t be able to live life fully again, but understand that having these feelings are normal. What shouldn’t be normal is when you give up or lose hope. Don’t doubt or beat yourself for having low moments rather be kind to yourself. Believe that this will pass, soon.

Avoid relieving the traumatic incident

Repeatedly thinking about the incident or viewing things that are related to an unfortunate experience can overwhelm you and put you in a negative zone that could make it tough for you to think clearly. It will be hard but always identify your negative thoughts and replace them with something else or distract yourself by doing something productive or talking to someone.

Consider seeking professional help

If you find yourself extremely struggling with your daily routine or have difficulty in carrying out day-to-day tasks then consider getting help from a mental health professional. People who get treatment are more likely to recover soon. Battling trauma requires effort but it is all worth it so you can live a fulfilling life again.

Furthermore, if you are feeling emotional distress or depression, you can always call us on our Cyber Harassment Helpline (0800-39393) which functions from 9 am till 5 pm everyday and we will assist you to the best of our abilities.

Author :  Asma Parvez

October 3, 2018 - Comments Off on September 2018- Digital Rights Foundation at the UN General Assembly

September 2018- Digital Rights Foundation at the UN General Assembly


DRF's cyber harassment helpline is selected as one of the innovative solutions addressing SDGs. We were invited to present cyber harassment helpline as one of their Top Ten Entrepreneur contenders.

The Summit, which was held during UN General Assembly meeting at the UN's SDG Media Zone on the 25th of September, provided Ms. Dad with the opportunity to highlight the need for protection of individuals, particularly women, against cyberbullying, discrimination, and intimidation. She also went on to say that "Online human rights must be recognized and upheld like offline human rights”. For the full speech, click here.



DRF at RSF’s launch on groundbreaking Global Information and Democracy Commission

DRF’s Executive Director, Ms. Nighat Dad became a part of Information & Democracy Commission launched by Reporters Without Borders, along with Nobel Peace prize laureates, Shirin Ebadi, Amartya Sen & 22 global leaders. Commission had its first meeting in Paris, along with the French President. This initiative is important to preserve a free and pluralistic public space, which is essential for democracies around the world.

Ms. Dad was honoured to be a part of this prestigious Committee and focused on talking about digital rights and human rights in online spaces. She highlighted the spike in fake news and the pivotal role played by social media companies and governments when dealing with fake news. Ms. Dad noted that, “I hope to represent a South Asian perspective that is both part of a global, multi-stakeholder initiative and speak to the particularities of experience and identities of all. Through this platform I hope to focus on the digital rights discourse across the globe and right the to free speech and expression for all. ”
To read more click here.

DRF gets featured on Forbes Top 10 Entrepreneurs at UN General Assembly

The article featured in Forbes had the following to say about the Summit:
'Last week, while countless world leaders made empty speeches to the UN General Assembly, a group of real change makers were nearby pitching their innovative technologies and programs, and challenging the world to scale actual solutions to our greatest challenges.'
Click here for the full article.


Privacy International’s SIDA Partner Meeting 11th – 12th September

DRF attended Privacy International’s annual SIDA Project Partner Meeting in London on 11th and 12th September. In total, 6 organisations, from Pakistan, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya and the Philippines presented on their work on digital security and privacy. Sana Farrukh, Research Associate DRF presented DRF’s report on the Safe Cities Project while participating in a session on ID and Biometrics. Additionally, DRF benefitted from guidance and trainings on risk assessment, data privacy practices, counter-terrorism and data security, artificial intelligence, data protection and human rights, and campaigning and advocacy.


Gender and Privacy: Countering the Patriarchal Gaze 13th – 14th September

DRF attended Privacy International’s Workshop on Gender and Privacy in London on the 13th and 14th of September.  This meeting connected partners from the Privacy International Network as well as external experts from around the world. Nighat Dad, Executive Director DRF, served on a panel titled ‘Staying safe in the era of techno-patriarchy 2.0.’, with Sana Farrukh, Research Associate DRF, assisting from a litigator’s standpoint. Other sessions included ‘Rethinking consent in the digital age’ and ‘Testimonies of abuse: documenting the targeting of communities at risk.’

DRF at Pakistan School of Internet Governance, Karachi

Nighat Dad has been associated as a faculty member with Pakistan School of Internet Governance since its inauguration in 2015. On September 5th 2018, Ms. Dad spoke to the Karachi class 2018 about internet law and policies and the gendered lens of the internet at the event.  

“Online Safe Spaces for Journalists” at Karakoram International University, Gilgit

DRF held a session at Karakoram International University with the students of Media and Communication department on September 3rd 2018. Around 97 students attended the awareness raising session where they were encouraged to keep themselves secure online. In the second half of the session they were given digital security training and were also provided with CDs, which included security toolkits and a guidebook on digital security.


Workshop for Lawyers on Digital Rights in Gilgit


On September 4th 2018, DRF conducted a workshop which was held for Lawyers in Gilgit, focusing on creating awareness regarding digital rights and the legal landscape that governs digital platforms. Around 25 lawyers participated in the session. The participants were also given specifically designed toolkits, to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them.


Workshop on investigative reporting, ethical journalism and digital rights for journalists in Gilgit

On September 5th 2018, DRF conducted a workshop for journalists from across the Gilgit Baltistan area. This workshop held a discussion on whether the existing media ethics are suitable for the evolving digital media landscape or new and different standards are needed. The sessions also focused on actions needed to tackle the spread of fake news and disinformation online, particularly as digital misinformation is extremely potent in Pakistan, owing to a large segment of the population lacking digital literacy. Another session was aimed at creating awareness about the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists. The participants were also given hands-on training and specifically designed toolkits to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them.


DRF at Connected Communities event, Glasgow

Nighat Dad spoke at an event titled ‘Connecting or Excluding? New Technologies and Connected Communities’. She explored how digital technologies can enable new forms of co-creation and co-research with communities and can help in building new communities of learning, shared knowledge and creativity. It was a two-day event that took place on 26th and 27th September 2018, which included a range of activities including talks, presentations, workshops, performances, networking and exhibition elements.


Hamara Internet ‘Our Right To Safe Online Spaces’ Session in Peshawar

DRF with the help of our partners Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit (FNF), conducted the session Hamara Internet ‘Our Right to Safe Online Spaces’ focusing on data protection and privacy in Peshawar. The session was attended by students and professors of Islamia University and a much needed debate around privacy laws in Pakistan and gendered privacy took place.


Hamara Internet ‘Our Right To Safe Online Spaces’ Session in Bahria University, Islamabad

DRF, along with our partner's support FNF, conducted a session with students from Bahria University on data protection and privacy. Law students from Bahria University enthusiastically participated in the session and shared how vital it is for cyber crime to be differentiated from data protection in Pakistan. A much needed debate around the need for a data protection law in Pakistan and cyber harassment also took place.

Panel discussion at “Conference on Violence Against Women”

DRF participated in a panel discussion titled “Existing Protection Mechanisms – Role of Private and State-Run Institutes + Role of Technological Advancement in Supplementing Access to Justice” at the Conference on Violence Against Women organised by LEARN on September 15. The panel was moderated by Angbeen Mirza and attended by representatives from PSCW, Courting the Law, Dastak and the SMU initiative.


DRF at IPDC Talks 2018 organized by UNESCO Islamabad


Jannat Fazal from DRF attended UNESCO Islamabad’s International Day for Universal Access to Information celebration as a guest speaker on 27th September, 2018. The program included IPDC talks where speakers from civil society, government and media delivered talks, followed by panel discussions. She highlighted the role of duty- bearers in promoting the right of access to information. She focused on Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the windows of opportunity to improve effectiveness of access to information initiatives.


DRF Train-the-Trainer Training in Islamabad


DRF’s team conducted a train-the-trainer training in collaboration with Facebook on the 13th of September, 2018 where Facebook’s safety modules were discussed with and communicated to  50 Computer Science teachers from federal schools and colleges in order to enable them to deliver online safety and security sessions to their students.


DRF at #EmpoderaxlosODS in Malaga, Spain

On September 28th 2018, Nighat Dad spoke at the #EmpoderaxlosODS In Malaga, Spain about women reclaiming online spaces and how they can use the internet to express and empower themselves. The talk focused on DRF’s journey from the beginning and how women are more vulnerable over the internet and how they need to take extra precautions to protect themselves. Ms. Dad talked about the Cyber Harassment Helpline and three main services it provides with legal aid, psychological help and digital security assistance.


Workplace Harassment Conviction

The DRFs Helpline team assisted the progress of a case that fell under the Workplace Harassment Act, which was filed by a woman facing serious harassment and intimidation at the hands of a colleague in her hometown of Chakwal. The case was filed with the Provincial Ombudsperson’s Office in Lahore under s. 2 (h) of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 and the decision was read out on the 4th of September, 2018 which held that the accused was guilty of causing harassment to the complainant under the relevant section of the Act and was awarded the penalty of compulsory retirement under s. 4(4)(ii)(b)


Members of Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to pen articles and blogs


Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. The Network advocates for women and other minority groups to have safe access to online platforms, where they can exercise their constitutional right of free speech without facing constant threats. The Network members pen articles to document these threats, bring forward issues in the implementation of legislation to prevent and protect women journalists from gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment both online and offline, and also advocate their access to effective remedies.


October 3, 2018 - Comments Off on Press Release: DRF at RSF’s launch on groundbreaking global Information and Democracy Commission, 70 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Press Release: DRF at RSF’s launch on groundbreaking global Information and Democracy Commission, 70 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Digital Rights Foundation

11 September 2018

Paris: Seventy years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris, the Paris-based international NGO, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), announces the formation of a panel of 25 prominent figures with the aim of drafting an International Declaration on Information and Democracy.

Co-chaired by Nobel peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi, and RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, the “Information and Democracy Commission” includes Nobel economics laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, Peruvian novelist and Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, a recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.

A panel has been formed with 25 members from 18 countries, which includes Nighat Dad, the founder of Pakistan’s Digital Rights Foundation. Ms. Dad is honoured to be part of this prestigious Committee and will be focusing on digital rights and human rights in online spaces. She will be highlighting the spike in fake news and the pivotal role played by social media companies and governments when dealing with fake news. Ms. Dad notes that, “I hope to represent a South Asian perspective that is both part of a global, multi-stakeholder initiative and speak to the particularities of experience and identities of all. Through this platform I hope to focus on the digital rights discourse across the globe and right the to free speech and expression for all. ”

This initiative’s ultimate goal is an international commitment by governments, private-sector companies and civil society representatives. The panel is envisioned to facilitate a groundbreaking political process which is to be launched at the initiative of the leaders of several democratic countries on the basis of the Declaration, and that this will lead to an “International Pledge on Information and Democracy.”

Letters have already been sent to leaders in all continents of the world, and RSF hopes that they will commit as early as mid-November, when dozens of heads of state and government meet in Paris for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War (11 November), for the Paris Peace Forum (11-13 November) and the Internet Governance Forum (12-14 November).

The Commission is meeting for the first time on the 11th and 12th September 2018 in Paris and has set itself the goal of completing its work within two months. RSF, which is acting as its general secretariat, initiated a discussion several months ago that is intended to contribute to the Commission’s own debates. International consultations with a wide range of stakeholders have also been launched.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.


Contact Person

Seerat Khan

Advocacy and Outreach Manager