Archives for November 2018

November 29, 2018 - Comments Off on Shrinking Spaces for Women Human Rights Defenders

Shrinking Spaces for Women Human Rights Defenders

 

Women and girls, in every corner of the world, are struggling for their rights or for the rights of the communities they live in. Women Human Rights Defenders across the world are not only discriminated against because of their line of work but also due to their gender. They defend the rights of every human being including women’s rights and the rights related to gender and sexuality and the work they do often puts their physical and cyber safety at risk.

29th November marks the International Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Day, which is celebrated across the world to honor the courage and resilience women human rights defenders have. WHRDs are comparatively higher at risk than their male counterparts because of the restrictions imposed on them by society due to their gender. They are often labelled as ‘immoral’ women without familial values and morals, and are subjected to reputational damage.

WHRDs working on specific women issues like sexual and reproductive health rights face greater hostility. They are considered to be the ones who bring disgrace to the family due to their sensitive line of work. It is essential that WHRDs get protection and support from their peers, families and the state.

Online and offline spaces are correlated and the consequences individuals face in online spaces can also lead to repercussions in offline spaces which is why it is essential to know what the law is. Other than the challenges and risks from their communities, WHRDs are also vulnerable in digital spaces. They are harassed, exploited and blackmailed through different online platforms especially with the evolution of social media. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) was passed in 2016 which focused on online violence. The law was specifically introduced to protect women in online spaces. Any activity in which individuals are intimidated and blackmailed through computer technology and social networking sites would constitute as cyber harassment. The cybercrime law clearly states that using someone’s name, ID and pictures without consent can potentially lead to 3 years of imprisonment or five million fine.   

It is important for WHRD’s to have awareness of strong digital security measures and privacy tools on their devices and laptops. Despite the sensitivity of the work they do, some WHRDs tremendously lack online safety awareness, so much that some WHRDs do not know about the ways of securing their email accounts. Digital Rights Foundation is an organisation which works closely with WHRDs to raise awareness of the tools and measures that they can employ to work efficiently and securely, in both online and offline spaces. During one such workshop, I learnt that passwords must be a mix of of alphanumeric characters and symbols. I also learned that that sharing passwords via applications and platforms that are not encrypted is not safe and that one should avoid sharing personal photos, contacts and their daily routine schedule with any new contacts that one adds.

In case you encounter cyber harassment you can get in touch with DRF’s cyber harassment helpline 0800-39393 which is a toll free number. The helpline provides three basic services which are digital security assistance, psychological help and legal aid. The helpline functions from Monday till Sunday, 9:00 am till 5:30 pm. You can also reach out to the helpline on helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk .

Author: Sidra Humayun

November 07, 2018 - Comments Off on October 2018: Digital Rights Foundation at the Consultation on the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association in the Digital Space

October 2018: Digital Rights Foundation at the Consultation on the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association in the Digital Space

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DRF participated in a two-day consultation between the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Voule, and delegates from civil society organizations and NGOs, which was held on 11th and 12th October 2018. DRF’s Executive Director, Ms. Nighat Dad, represented the organization at the event.

The consultation brought together 32 participants from North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East to share experiences and insights on exercising and protecting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the digital space.

The participants discussed a broad range of topics, including the notions and definitions of the rights as they apply to the digital space: freedom of assembly and association in facilitating the enjoyment of other human rights; the monitoring and surveillance of online activities, jurisdiction and territorial reach of such measures; and the responsibilities of businesses and other parties beyond the primary responsibility of the state.

Ms. Dad not only shared experiences of DRF’s work but also gave recommendations to the UN Special Rapporteur to tackle ways in which the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association are impeded online.

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline releases it’s bi-annual report

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline released its bi-annual report for the period December 2016 to May 2018. 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. It can be found here.

Nighat Dad at Asma Jahangir Conference

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Nighat Dad moderated a panel titled ‘Cyber Laws and Protection of Human Rights’ at the Asma Jahangir Conference on the 13th of October. The session focused on how online spaces have evolved over the years and so have its impact in offline spaces. The panel discussed the successes and failures of the cyber crime law and also focused on freedom of expression, fundamental human rights and the integration of your online life in offline spaces.

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline covered on Voice of America Urdu

Voice of America Urdu featured DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline and the Executive Director, Ms. Nighat Dad, discussed the ways through which cyber crime could be perpetrated especially when pictures of women are uploaded and shared online without their consent. She talked about how the helpline was introduced in 2016 with the aim of providing help to not just women but everyone who face any kind of harassment and encouraged people to come forward with their complaints. Click here to view the video.

DRF at OTF Summit 2018, Taiwan

DRF participated in the OTF Summit 2018 in Taiwan. Around 100 participants were present from various civil society organizations from around the globe. DRF led the discussion on the challenges of digital rights in South Asia.

“Online Safe Spaces for Journalists” at University of Balochistan, Quetta

 DRF held a session at University of Balochistan with the students of Media and Journalism department on October 10, 2018. Around 78 students attended the awareness raising session where they were encouraged to keep themselves secure online.

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Workshop for Lawyers on Digital Rights in Quetta

On 11th October 2018, DRF conducted a workshop which was held for lawyers in Quetta, focussing on creating awareness regarding digital rights and the legal landscape that governs digital platforms. DRF received an overwhelming response in Quetta and around 50 lawyers attended the workshop. The participants were 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.

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Two-day workshop on investigative reporting, ethical journalism and digital rights for journalists in Quetta

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DRF organized a two-day workshop for journalists on ‘Investigative Reporting, Ethical Journalism and Digital Rights’. The event was held in Quetta on 12th and 13th October and journalists from all over Balochistan attended the workshop. The 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.

 Hamara Internet: Multi stakeholder Consultation on Data Projection and Privacy

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Digital Rights Foundation hosted the Hamara Internet: multi stakeholder Consultation on Data Protection and Privacy in collaboration with our partners Fur Die Freiheit (FNF) with lawyer, journalists and civil society members on the 5th of October. The consultation focused on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 and advocated for privacy rights in Pakistan. Participants were enthusiastic to give recommendations regarding the the bill and also emphasized on similar consultations happening in other cities.

 

Visit to Violence Against Women Center (VAWC) in Multan

 Members of the DRF team visited the Violence Against Women Centre (VAWC) in Multan on 8th October, and were given a thorough tour by the Prosecutor. The Center contains a mediation and rehabilitation center, services of a trained psychologist and psychiatrist, medical facilities and doctors, investigation rooms and designated area for holding perpetrators of violence against women. The VAWC has been thoughtfully planned and caters to women at every stage of their struggles, from collecting medical evidence and gaining medical assistance, to taking legal action and dealing with the aftermath of the same. DRF was alerted to the fact that due to the change in government, there is a severe lack of funding hampering the VAWC’s operations. DRF hopes that by raising awareness of these impeccable facilities, which sadly remain non operational at this time, the new government will take ownership of the same and emulate this model in its efforts in other cities.

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DRF attends Two-Day Advocacy Training by TDEA

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Employees of DRF travelled to Islamabad to attend a two-day training organized by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) on the 30th and 31st of October. The training was focused on equipping members of the Coalition for Inclusive Pakistan of which DRF is a member, with tips and strategies on how to effectively pursue advocacy of a charter of demands that each individual group had devised.

 

Training of Lawyers on Digital Rights and Cybercrime Laws in Lahore

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On 13th October 2018, DRF arranged a training in Lahore for lawyers on digital rights and cybercrime laws in Pakistan. The workshop was arranged in collaboration with UN Women. The aim of this workshop was create to awareness regarding laws governing digital spaces, an under litigated area in Pakistani law. The workshop was attended by over 20 lawyers from several parts of Pakistan..

 

Training of Lawyers on Digital Rights and Cybercrime Laws in Islamabad

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It was busy month for lawyers, as DRF followed up its Lahore training with a similar one in Islamabad on October 20th. In collaboration with UN Women and our trainer Haider Imtiaz, the one day workshop covered constitutional law, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, the FIA Act and electronic evidence. Digital freedoms in Pakistan were discussed at length and the participants were encouraged to take up cases regarding digital spaces.

Hamara Internet ‘Our Right to Safe Online Spaces’ SZABIST University, Karachi

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Digital Rights Foundation hosted the Hamara Internet session ‘Our Right to Safe Online Spaces’ with the help of our partners Fur Die Freiheit (FNF) for students and faculty of SZABIST University on the 29h of October 2018 in, Karachi. The session was attended by 79 students and a much needed debate around data protection, privacy and cyber harassment took place.

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

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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.

 

November 05, 2018 - Comments Off on PECA (AMENDMENT) BILL 2018: UPDATE

PECA (AMENDMENT) BILL 2018: UPDATE

Pakistan drafted and passed its first cybercrime law in the form of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), on the 22nd of August, 2016. As progress since then has shown, the legislation is embedded with many flaws. While PECA filled in a gaping void that existed due to the lack of regulation surrounding internet usage in the country, the concerns with its form existed beforehand and were also highlighted with the Year in Review published on this website.

In the two years since its advent, calls for the Act’s amendment have been made on multiple instances for a multitude of reasons. Civil society groups have posited that the vague language, broad powers and disproportionate punishments prescribed in the Act are a cause for concern and should be amended. Law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, hold that PECA does not provide them with enough powers. For instance they have argued that implementation of the Act is stymied by the compoundable, bailable and non-cognisable nature of all the offences listed under the Act with the exception of s.10 (cyber terrorism), s.21 (offences against the modesty of a natural person) and s. 22 (child pornography). It is their contention that due to these limitations, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is often unable to move for prosecution. A proposal to amend PECA has been requested in its first half-yearly report to the Parliament, submitted in February 2018.

The FIA perceives the impact of these qualities of the offences as impeding the relevant LEA’s ability to effectively invoke prosecution, especially for offences that are time-barred due to their sensitive nature e.g cases involving blackmail and harassment of a minor or threats involving the exposure of sexually explicit content as a result of hacking into the victims’ personal database. While the highly violent nature of our patriarchal society’s reaction to such ‘disgrace’ or the mere threat of it imparts crucial import to the need for efficacy at the FIA’s end, the FIA has historically abused the authority vested in it to perpetrate further human rights violations. The recent development in which the country’s telecom watchdog, PTA, has offered to hand over the task of monitoring cyber crimes to the FIA citing lack of capacity, only compounds our concern over conferring absolute discretion and authority on the one institution and the potential ramifications.

The current amendments proposed to PECA were set into motion following the notice taken by the Islamabad High Court’s (now deposed) Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi on the 31st of March, 2017 whereby he issued an order to the federal government to amend the legislation to include false blasphemy charges and to look into the criminalisation of pornography (child pornography is already criminalized under PECA).

The committee, which was tasked with the responsibility of drafting this PECA (Amendment) Bill 2018,  met on the 10th of October. The amendment faced opposition from various quarters and against which requests were submitted to the Senate from multiple avenues including IT Minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noorulhaq Qadri as well as JUI (F) Senator Maulana Haideri the who walked out of the meeting and assured that his party would not be supporting any of the amendments.

The Bill was officially returned by the Senate on the 12th of October when Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz requested the secretariat to have the Bill withdrawn. The impact of these developments is two-sided, on the one hand the inclusion of the blasphemy section (proposed as s.27C) and the overlap with Article 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code was bound to blur lines and create replication of offences within the criminal justice system. The provision criminalising false blasphemy charges, on the other hand, was a welcome move as it could potentially serve to diminish instances of fake accusations which carry damning consequences for the accused when the penalty is as severe as the death penalty.