Archives for March 2019

March 29, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation launches report on Female Journalists in new media: Experiences, challenges and a gendered approach

Digital Rights Foundation launches report on Female Journalists in new media: Experiences, challenges and a gendered approach

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has launched its report on the gendered, online harassment that female journalists face in the media and how this resonates in their offline spaces in the report titled, ‘Female Journalists in new media: Experiences, challenges and a gendered approach’. The report aims to generate a much needed debate around the problems that women journalists face in the new media and how they often have to take a step back from the media due to their vulnerable position in the field.

The report records the experiences of female journalists in a qualitative manner in order to understand the kind of harassment and intimidation women face in the digital platforms due to their work. It also explains how online violence of female journalists translates into offline violence. The report talks about how there are numerous issues that women face in their field like trivialization of gendered issues by their male counterparts and limited support from media houses and institutions.

Highlighting the findings of the report, DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad, notes that “It is extremely hard for women in the media to move ahead in their careers due to the gendered harassment that they face both in the online and offline spheres. Women are often the subject of criticism in the field and they are usually judged on their looks and clothing as compared to the work they do.” She adds that, “The first step towards trying to eradicate this problem of online harassment of female journalists is acknowledging that due to the emergence and more usage of digital platforms for journalism, women are subjected to gendered harassment online, as opposed to their male counterparts."

According to DRF’s findings most women are excluded from press clubs because of their gender and are usually subjected to criticism by their families and society if they want to move ahead in their careers. The report also mentions the impact of cyber harassment on women in the media and how women usually end up self censoring or leaving the media because of being subjected to criticism by the public.

DRF also has recommendations to the state, media houses, civil society and press clubs in the country and how these spaces need to be more inclusive and adopt an approach to protect women if they are subjected to abuse or harassment online.

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.

March 7, 2019 - Comments Off on What is a Helpline and When You Should Call One:

What is a Helpline and When You Should Call One:

In order to deal with the problems that accompany today’s highly digitalized age, the Digital Rights Foundation has initiated a Cyber Harassment Helpline. This helpline aims to guide the people and provide emotional support to people of Pakistan through any obstacles they may be facing, whether big or small.
Here are a couple of frequently asked questions to clear any doubts that you might have about our helpline and helplines in general.

What is a helpline?

A helpline is a telephone service, which offers advice and aid to people of all ages and gender status. Helplines aim to provide an non-judgemental listening ear to any caller who is facing trouble and address them with the best possible path they can take in ending their concern.

Why call a helpline?

We are all well aware of the multitude of challenges that people face daily when it comes to the digital world. Often times you need guidance to help us navigate through the obstacles you face. You may not feel comfortable sharing them with family or friends out of fear of being shunned or criticized, and that is okay. This is where public helplines comes in.

Helplines can be very valuable to you due to the free support that they offer. Not only are most helplines free, but certain helplines also guarantee 100% confidentiality. Trained agents listen to any issue you face, albeit emotional or otherwise, and guide you in the best way possible, customized specifically to your individual needs. If further aid is necessary, agents will point you in the right direction and get you in touch with those aids closest to you.

Is a helpline only for life threatening situations?

Contrary to popular belief, a helpline does not exist solely in the case of life threatening situations. For example, our Cyber Harassment Helpline is available in case of any form of help or information an individual may need regardless of whether the issue is incredibly pressing or not.

You may call on behalf of yourself as well as on the behalf of others you may feel are in need of help. The help line is also available as a source of emotional counseling to those facing distressing situations. However, if we do feel that your issue is out of our hand we will direct you to other professionals who will be able to better help your case.

Can DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline only help me through phone?

The Cyber Harassment Helpline not only provides help through the means of our number 0800-39393 from 9am to 5pm, but you may also email us at if needed.

What problems can I call a helpline for?

Our helpline services cover a wide range. The agents at the helpline will try and assist you with all forms of digital crime, such as:

  • Impersonation/Fake accounts
  • Blackmailing
  • The contraction of malicious software known as malware which harms data and devices
  • Social media hacks and spamming
  • Cyber stalking
  • Cyber bullying etc

If you are going through a similar situation, need advice or just someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to call on 0800-39393 between 9am to 5pm.

March 7, 2019 - Comments Off on February 2019: DRF launches Ab Aur Nahin – a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse

February 2019: DRF launches Ab Aur Nahin – a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse

DRF is proud to launch it's latest venture Ab Aur Nahin which is a legal portal for survivors of harassment and abuse. The portal aims to help individuals stand up against abuse and help bring us closer to achieving our goal for creating safe spaces everywhere. The portal has a network of lawyers from across Pakistan who will be providing legal assistance to victims of abuse and harassment. The portal comes in light of current #MeToo movement in Pakistan and the growing number of cases of harassment that DRF has been receiving. Click here to read the details about the portal.

DRF releases a Policy Brief on Online Harassment in Pakistan

Policy Brief

In view of the increasing problem impacting all users especially women online, DRF has prepared a policy brief regarding online harassment through a gendered lens. The policy brief significantly expands the discussion on legal remedies available to the victims of online harassment and the lack of awareness regarding Information and communication technologies amongst masses. Click here to view the policy brief.  

Nighat Dad at ‘The Conversation’ held at IBA, Karachi

IBA, Karachi hosted an event for the BBC titled, ‘The Conversation’ where Nighat Dad also took part as a panelist. The panel also consisted of Pakistan’s football captain Hajra Khan, actress Mahira Khan and a comedian Faiza Saleem. The panel discussion was moderated by Kim Chakanetsa where the panelists probed into the challenges, frustrations and joys of being a woman in Pakistan. Ms. Dad, talking about DRF’s cyber harassment helpline, discussed that around 60 percent of the people that call for help comprise of women facing blackmail and dealing with sexual assault issues. She addressed the audience and highlighted the necessity of speaking up about mental health issues and cautioned them about the safe usage of social media and the internet. Click here to listen to the whole session.

DRF at ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet South Asia’, Sri Lanka


Jannat Fazal represented DRF at ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet South Asia’ held in Negombo, Sri Lanka on 21st and 22nd February. The two-day regional conference brought together researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across South Asia for critical conversations seeking to answer the question: What opportunities does technology provide to question and, ultimately, start changing gender norms? The event focused on sharing research and findings around making a feminist internet.

DRF conducted series of seminars on “Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan: Combating Gender-Specific Threats to Women's Activism Online”

The DRF team conducted a series of advocacy seminars entitled “Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan: Combating Gender-Specific Threats to Women's Activism Online” in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS).

The Seminars took place in the four provincial capitals and Islamabad in the third and fourth weeks of February and will be followed by in-depth digital security trainings under the same head.

The envisioned aim of the seminars was to discuss the findings of the pilot study, and the recommendations drawn from the study and to glean insight and input from the participants regarding their experience of existing in the online sphere as women information practitioners in Pakistan.


Seminar held in Lahore

Seminar held in in Karachi

Seminar held in Islamabad

DRF at Social Media Festival

Shmyla Khan and Nighat Dad from Digital Rights Foundation participated in the second Social Media Festival 2019 at the University of Lahore on 22nd Feb. Nighat was the Keynote speaker for the session “Concept of Cyber Security and Modern Threats”. Shmyla represented DRF at the panel titled “Women in Technology Inclusion: Global and Local Perspectives” along with Nayab Gohar Jan, Fouzia Bhatti and Baela Raza Jamil.

Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech and Expression: Surveillance Industry and Human Rights

DRF made a submission to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on call for submissions on the surveillance industry and human rights on February 15, 2019. In the report DRF calls for effective and human rights compliant national legislation on digital privacy and data protection that provides for robust safeguards against intrusion from surveillance technologies as well as international commitments from nation states for transparency around sale and transfer of surveillance technology. The submission can be accessed here.

Nighat Dad on Aaj News, Dawn and Geo News

Nighat Dad appeared on Aaj News, Dawn and Geo News to give her opinion on the recent social media crackdown happening in Pakistan. Earlier the Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, announced the federal government’s plans to initiate a comprehensive crackdown on “hate speech” on social media in Pakistan. She talked about how the crackdown would lead to further curb on freedom of expression and it has not been defined what constitutes as hate speech and what falls under free speech, making this crackdown even more problematic.

DRF at the roundtable consultation by UNESCO

DRF took part in a roundtable consultation on “Mapping emerging challenges for independent journalism and exploring solutions under the Sustainable Development Goals Framework” in Islamabad. The event served as a platform for sharing best practices, recommendations and to develop synergies between stakeholders to strengthen monitoring and reporting mechanisms to promote safety of journalists. Representatives of DRF urged that freedom of expression in online spaces should not be curbed and independent journalists and bloggers should also be able to exercise their fundamental rights.

Students from Beaconhouse School System Bahria Town Branch at DRF

Students from Beaconhouse School System Bahria Town Branch visited DRF's office to discuss violence against women for their project. The girls asked our team questions regarding the threats that women face in online and offline spaces and how it is each individual's responsibility to challenge the patriarchal norms that have been set in the society and preach of equality and due justice by adopting more feministic approaches in life. While they visited they talked about how they'd like to be part of the Aurat March.

Seminar on Cyber Harassment at Gender Studies Department, Punjab University

Nighat Dad conducted a session at Punjab University with students of the Gender Studies Department. The discussion involved an overview of the laws relating to online harassment and other Cyber Crimes, as well as basic issues relating to online privacy. It was an interactive discussion in which the students actively engaged with the topics in focus.

DRF at the launch of Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing - Punjab Chapter\

DRF participated in Rozan’s launch and first meeting of Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing (PFDP) -  Punjab Chapter on February 28. The event focused on the need and importance of police reforms, progress and commitment of the current government towards improving the situation of gender-based violence and the role of civil society in promoting gender-sensitive society and police.

DRF at Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi

DRF conducted a seminar entitled “Our right to safe online spaces” in collaboration with UN Women in Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi on February 14. The aim of this seminar was to mainstream digital rights in public discourse and to discuss the gravity of cyber harassment and its implications in cultural context.

DRF participated at the Rapid Response Network for Women Human Rights Defenders

DRF participated as a key stakeholder in the meeting arranged by Shirkat Gah - Women’s Resource Centre (SG) and Punjab Commission on the Status of Women’s (PCSW) Rapid Response Network (RRN) in Lahore on February 4th, 2019. The objective of this network is to secure and provide immediate relief to human rights defenders across Pakistan working on freedom and empowerment of women.

March 5, 2019 - Comments Off on 5 Ways You Can Stay Safe on Social Media as a Minor

5 Ways You Can Stay Safe on Social Media as a Minor

Are you under the age of 18 and an avid user of social media? We know how difficult it is to imagine a life without the internet. Born in a world run by technology and ruled by the Internet, you have experienced a fast paced and integrated world like no prior generation. However, spending several hours on social media platforms can also be a major concern.

The global increase in social media crimes, such as online threats, stalking, cyber bullying, hacking, fraud, and identity theft has made sense for this to be such a concern. It is therefore essential that you as children are educated about how to make proper use of social media.

Social media is not the enemy, but rather some users of social media are. Here are 5 important tips about how you can stay safe on social media:


Þ    Use a strong password that is long and incorporates numbers and signs.

Þ    Your safety is more important than a popularity contest so make sure to be selective about who you accept as a friend on social media. Verify an account before accepting their request, as there are many fake accounts online as well as stalkers.

Þ  Make sure not to share too much information online. Some basic things not to share would be your birthday, phone number, home address, or passwords.

Þ   Majority of social media sites allow you to customize your privacy settings, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This allows you to limit access to your personal information and control who can see your posts.

Þ    You can protect your devices by installing an antivirus program and consistently updating your software. Be very cautious about links sent by unknown numbers and even from friends on social media as they can be infected with a virus as well.

In truth, there is both beauty and terror in social media. It connects us to people and experiences all over the world. Social media, to quote from the Roman Historian Livy, is a “record of the infinite variety of human experiences”. So, use the internet, but with caution!

Written by: Rayyah Iqbal