Archives for November 2019

November 25, 2019 - Comments Off on October 2019: Wiki Gender Gap Editathon in Islamabad

October 2019: Wiki Gender Gap Editathon in Islamabad

DRF, along with the Swedish Embassy, UN Women, and Media Matters for Democracy, hosted a Wiki Gender Gap editathon on October 11 and 12, 2019 in which around 35 volunteers gathered to add content on Wikipedia about Pakistani women and gender-related issues. We were able to post over 50 articles during the two-day Editathon.

Read more about it here.

Two-day Event on Combating Online and Offline Sexual Harassment in Pakistan

DRF conducted a two-day event in Islamabad on October 22 and 23, 2019 on issues of harassment and their legal frameworks. The first day involved a closed-door consultation, “Combating Online and Offline Sexual Harassment in Pakistan: Rethinking Legal Interventions”, with journalists, lawyers, and civil society to draft recommendations regarding the existing laws and procedures.

The Conference on October 23, titled “Combating Online and Offline Harassment in Pakistan”, included a keynote address from Kashmala Tariq, the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment. The first panel, titled “Tackling the criticisms of the Law - Is the legal system a tool for silencing or resistance?”, was moderated by Nighat Dad. The panelists included Syed Fareed Ali (director training at Federal Investigative Agency), Tooba Syed (lecturer at Quaid-e-Azam University, Awami Workers Party, Women Democratic Front), Khawar Mumtaz (Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women), Tanzeela Mazhar (Journalist), Zoya Rehman (Researcher), Aslam Chohan (Consultant at Punjab Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment), Fauzia Viqar (Ex-chairperson of Punjab Commission on the Status of Women) and Nuzhat Shirin (Chairperson, Sindh Commission on the Status of Women). The second panel titled “Reforming the law - A way forward” included Maleeka Bokhari (Member of National Assembly), Kashmala Tariq (Federal Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment), Barrister Jannat Ali Kalyar (DRF), Dania Mukhtar (Lawyer), Rukhshanda Naz (KPK Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment), and Aisha Sarwari (Co-founder Women’s advancement Hub, Author and Journalist).

The recommendations made at the conference are available in Urdu and English.

Academic Roundtable

DRF held an Academic Roundtable at the HRCP Office in Lahore on Friday the 18th of October, 2019. This event was held in collaboration with our partner organization Privacy International. The theme under discussion was ‘Privacy in the Age of Surveillance Capitalism’. The event began with a keynote speech by noted academic Ammar Ali Jan on the emerging issues of privacy and surveillance in the region, followed by an introduction to the Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 by our Legal Officer Jannat Ali Kalyar and later, a group discussion on related thematic areas was held amongst the students and academics. We rounded up the event with human rights activist and former Director Gender Studies Director at QAU, Dr. Farzana Bari delivering the concluding remarks wherein she laid emphasis on the need for having important conversations like these, which are pertinent to this day and age and the challenges that come with it.

Hearing at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights regarding Privacy and Harassment

On 25 October 2019, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), along with members of civil society and student activists, got a chance to brief the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights’ session on the issue of the University of Balochistan in light of privacy, surveillance of campuses and harassment in educational institutes. Along with the acting Vice-Chancellor of the University, student representatives were given a chance to put forward their demands. The Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz, academic & activist Arfana Mallah and Shmyla Khan from DRF gave their recommendations to the Committee.

Read our full statement on the hearing here.

Read our statement in solidarity with students at the University of Balochistan here.

Submission to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on new technologies and their impact on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests under res. 38/11

DRF submitted its comments and recommendations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right to freedom of assembly in light of new technologies. We highlighted the legal and social context in Pakistan while analyzing emerging technologies.

Read our submission here.

Hamara Internet: Engagement of Lawyers on Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 in Lahore

DRF in collaboration with Friedrich-Naumann Foundation held a session in Lahore with lawyers on the 2nd October 2019. Lawyers in Lahore discussed in detail about the current cyber crime legislation in the country along with the need of a data protection bill. Recommendations were given by lawyers regarding the data protection bill and there was also a much needed conversation around how awareness raising sessions need to take place with students regarding the safe use of the internet.

Hamara Internet: Engagement of Lawyers on Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 in Karachi

DRF in collaboration with Friedrich-Naumann Foundation held a session in Karachi with lawyers on 29th October 2019 at the Movenpick Hotel. Lawyers and law students from Karachi had a discussion on the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and how the implementation of the law needs to be made better. There was also a conversation around the data protection bill and how lawyers need to adopt online safety practices in their work life.

Two Day Online Safety Training in Karachi with HRDs

DRF conducted a two day session with human rights defenders from karachi regarding online safety and digital rights. HRDs discussed in detail on their privacy concerns and what safe practices they need to adopt in order to stay safe in online spaces. The session took place for two days and had human rights defenders which consisted of activists, lawyers, journalists and civil society.

Algorithms, AI & Civil Liberties - Visiting Program with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

DRF was part of a delegation from South Asia which took part in the "Privacy as a Human Right - Algorithms, AI & Civil Liberties” visiting program from 28th September to 5th October 2019 in Germany. Our DRF representative took part in high-level meetings with civil society organizations in Germany as well as public officials such as the Data Protection Commissioner in Hamburg and members of the Berlin House of Representatives.

Understanding Cyber Harassment through a Gender Lens  - Training with Sub- Inspectors Federal Investigative Agency

On 3 October 2019 DRF conducted a training session with FIA Sub-Inspectors in FIA Academy, Islamabad with the collaboration of UNWomen  The ubiquitousness of harassment cases was discussed delineating its reasons viz; anonymity of users, gender hierarchy, lack of digital literacy, and victim-blaming. It also highlighted how technology has deepened the gender divide and is being used as a platform for harassment. The aim of the session was to challenge participants’ views regarding harassment and shift attention from victim to perpetrator in order to help them empathize with victims coming to lodge their complaints.The objective was to build an insight into the fears and apprehensions of the victims that need to be addressed while building the victims’ trust in the procedure. Another purpose was that participants challenge their internalized views regarding harassment, understand the impact it can have on their work and, shift the attention from blaming or scrutinizing the victim to calling out the perpetrator and the whole system supplementing it.

Bringing Feminism to Mainstream and Digital Journalism

Digital Rights Foundation collaborated with Media Bethak to conduct workshop on “Brining Feminism to Mainstream and Digital Journalism” on October 30, 2019 at Media Bethak in Karachi. The workshop aimed to create a deeper understanding of sex and gender, busting gender-based stereotypes and the inclusion of these in the media, discussing power dynamics and its intersection with the patriarchal system, and learning guidelines for gender sensitive reporting. It focused on bringing together journalists, activists and students of media to work on reports and stories from a feminist perspective. It was attended by 25 participants who actively engaged in activities and discussions.

November 12, 2019 - Comments Off on Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information & Democracy, a structural response to information disorder

Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information & Democracy, a structural response to information disorder

Eleven organizations from civil society create the Forum on Information and Democracy, a new international entity tasked to implement the principles of the International Partnership on information & Democracy, an intergovernmental agreement signed by a coalition of 30 States on the margins of the UN General Assembly last September. It is the continuation of the international process launched by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in September 2018.

In the context of the Paris Peace Forum today, eleven organizations unveiled the newly created Forum on Information & Democracy. This new entity will issue recommendations for standards in order to encourage the regulation and self-regulation  of the space of information and communication. The initiative was welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron during his inaugural speech. He first quoted “the Partnership on Information and Democracy, launched by Reporters Without Borders and supported by governments” to illustrate “the importance of these new forms of cooperation”, “a concrete example of innovations that provide different actors to move forward together".

The association will be based in Paris and will implement the principles from the International Partnership on Information & Democracy, an intergovernmental agreement endorsed by a coalition of 30 States on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

The first General Assembly of the Forum on I&D was held yesterday at RSF’s headquarters in Paris. Its eleven founding members are NGOs, think tanks, multistakeholder initiatives and research centers: CIGI (Canada), CIVICUS (South Africa), the Digital Rights Foundation (Pakistan), Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands), the Human Rights Centre at UC Berkeley School of Law, University of California (United States), the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (United Kingdom), OBSERVACOM (Uruguay), the Open Government Partnership, the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway), Reporters without Borders/RSF (France) and Research ICT Africa (South Africa).

The Forum’s Board of Directors elected the RSF Secretary general, Christophe Deloire as its President. Nighat Dad (executive director of Digital Rights Foundation) and Leon Willems (director of Free Press Unlimited) were elected as Vice-President and Treasurer.

In accordance with its bylaws, the Forum will evaluate the means, norms and architectures of the global space of information and communication; investigate respect for the principles of the Declaration and Partnership on Information and Democracy by the corporate entities that shape this space (the online platforms); and, above all, issue recommendations for governments, platforms and the media industry on how the norms that govern this space should evolve. It will encourage self-regulatory mechanisms and promote the social function of journalism.

The Forum’s permanent secretariat will set up working groups tasked with formulating recommendations for regulation and self-regulation in order to address new challenges brought up by technological disruptions and for which existing legislation is not adapted.

During the inauguration of the Forum on Information & Democracy,  the President of Latvia Egils Levits, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius, the Chancellor of South Korea’s National Diplomatic Academy, Kim Joon Hyung, and the Council of Europe’s Director of Democratic Governance, Claudia Luciani, recalled the importance of the Partnership. Some founding members,  including the CEO of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Sasha Havlicek, the Executive Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, Henrik Urdal and the Head of the Geneva office of CIVICUS, Susan Wilding explained the importance and the need for this new organization. Christophe Deloire and Shirin Ebadi, the co-chairs of the International Commission on Information and Democracy (see below), and three other members of the Commission, Can Dündar, Hauwa Ibrahim and Nighat Dad, also outlined the overall logic of the initiative and the central place given to civil society.

About the International Initiative on Information and Democracy 

RSF launched this international initiative in September 2018 when it created the International Commission on Information and Democracy consisting of 25 prominent figures of 18 nationalities. This Commission is co-chaired by Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Other members of the Commission include laureates of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, the French jurist Mireille Delmas Marty, Honorary Professor at the Collége de France, journalists Maria Ressa and Can Dündar, and new technology expert Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Klein Centre at Harvard University.

The Commission drafted the International Declaration on Information and Democracy which received the support of twelve Heads of State and Government in November 2018, including Emmanuel Macron (France), Carlos Alvarado (Costa Rica), Bechir Caid Essebsi (Tunisia), Erna Solberg (Norway) and Justin Trudeau (Canada). It also received the support of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland.

The ensuing Partnership for Information and Democracy was presented at the G7 summit in August 2019, winning the support of G7 members and the leaders of other major democracies also attending the summit.

On the Forum’s founding members

About CIGI

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to build bridges from knowledge to power by conducting world-leading research and influencing policy makers to innovate. CIGI is headquartered in Waterloo, Canada and has a global network of partners and researchers based around the world. Our peer-reviewed, evidence-based research focuses on digital governance issues relating to the global economy, international law and global security. In collaboration with strategic partners and support received from the Government of Canada and founder Jim Balsillie, our research covers some of the most important issues of our time such as artificial intelligence, platform governance and multilateral trade.

Press contact :  

Kristy Smith, ksmith@cigionline.org or +1 519 580 5566

About CIVICUS

With headquarters in South Africa, and hubs in New York and Geneva, CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organizations and individuals dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world.  The alliance works to protect the fundamental civic freedoms that allow us to speak out, organize and take action. We do this by defending civic freedoms and democratic values; strengthening the power of people; and empowering a more accountable, effective and innovative civil society.  We strive to promote excluded voices, especially from the Global South, and have a growing alliance of more than 8000 members in more over 175 countries.

Press contact :

Deborah Walter : +27 11 833 5959  / deborah.walter@civicus.org / media@civicus.org

About the Digital Rights Foundation

The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded 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, surveillance and online violence against women. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on-ground and online.

Press contact :

Haider Kaleem : haider@digitalrightsfoundation.pk  / +92-42-35852180
About Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

Free Press Unlimited is a Netherlands-based media development organization that works in more than 30 countries and strives  to ensure that impartial news and information are available to people across the globe, particularly in countries where there is no to little press freedom. By supporting local media professionals and journalists, Free Press Unlimited aims to help people gain access to the information they need to survive and develop.

Press contact :

Marieke Le Poole : lepoole@freepressunlimited.org
About the Human Rights Centre at UC Berkeley School of Law

The Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, conducts research on war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Using evidence-based methods and innovative technologies, we support efforts to hold perpetrators accountable, protect vulnerable populations, and amplify the voices of survivors. We seek to close research gaps in global understanding related to refugees and immigrants, indigenous people, workers, women, survivors of trafficking and sexual violence, and other targeted populations. Our Investigations Lab trains students how to find and verify photographs, videos, and other social media sources to investigate potential international crimes, monitor hate speech, and counter disinformation for major NGOS, legal entities, international bodies, and media. We are working with the United Nations Office of Human Rights to develop and publish the first international protocol on open source investigations.

Press contact : 

Andrea Lampros : alampros@berkeley.edu
About the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, launched in 2006, is now the leading global ‘think and do’ tank dedicated to understanding and innovating real-world responses to the rising tide of polarisation, hate and extremism of all forms. ISD combines anthropological research, expertise in international extremist movements and an advanced digital analysis capability that tracks hate, disinformation and extremism online, with policy advisory support and training to governments and cities around the world. ISD also works to empower youth and community influencers internationally through its education, technology and communications programmes, including a range of initiatives run in partnership with MIT, Google, Microsoft and Facebook. At the same time ISD is working with a number of governments to design and mount digital policy and regulatory solutions to the algorithmic amplification of polarisation and extremism online.

Press contact :

Evie Penington : pa@isdglobal.org
About OBSERVACOM

OBSERVACOM (Latin American Observatory for Regulation, Media and Convergence) is a nonprofit, professional and independent regional think tank, specialized in regulation and public policy related to media, telecommunications, Internet and freedom of expression. We approach these issues from a rights perspective and prioritize aspects related to access, diversity and pluralism. OBSERVACOM is composed of experts and researchers committed to the protection and promotion of democracy, cultural diversity, human rights and freedom of expression in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Press contacts :

Bruce Girard : bgirard@comunica.org

João Brant : joaocbrant@gmail.com

About the Open Government Partnership (OGP)

In 2011, government leaders and civil society advocates came together to create a unique partnership—one that combines these powerful forces to promote accountable, responsive and inclusive governance. Seventy-nine countries and a growing number of local governments—representing more than two billion people—along with thousands of civil society organizations are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Press contact : 

Jose Perez Escotto  : jose.perez@opengovpartnership.org
About PRIO

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) conducts research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. Founded in 1959, PRIO is an independent research institution committed to academic excellence and known for its effective synergy of basic and policy-relevant research. PRIO further conducts graduate training and is engaged in the promotion of peace through conflict resolution, dialogue and reconciliation, public information and policymaking activities.

Press contacts : 

Agnete Schjønsby : agnete@prio.org

Indigo Trigg-Hauger  : indtri@prio.org
About Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Reporters Without Borders, also known under its French name Reporters sans frontières (RSF), is an international non-governmental organization defending freedom, independence and pluralism of journalism. Recognized as a public utility in France, RSF enjoys consultative status with the UN, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organisation of La Francophonie. Headquartered in Paris, RSF has offices in 14 cities around the world and correspondents in 130 countries.

Press contacts :

Emilie Poirrier / epoirrier@rsf.org / 0033 6 77 92 16 77

Sophie Minodier / sminodier@rsf.org / 0033 6 26 49 38 53
About Research ICT Africa

Research ICT Africa conducts public-interest research on the digital economy and society that responds to national, regional and continental needs. We provide relevant stakeholders with the information and analysis required to develop flexible and adaptive policies and regulation to deal with an increasingly complex and dynamic digital environment. Our network contributes to the gathering and analysis of data and indicators to establish a repository of knowledge for furthering research and digital governance.

Press contact :

Oarabile Mudongo : omudongo@researchictafrica.net

November 06, 2019 - Comments Off on September 2019: DRF’s team retreat

September 2019: DRF’s team retreat

All the work that Human Rights Defenders do across the globe does become really overwhelming at one point hence break and balance becomes necessary. Keeping alive its tradition and position of being a feminist organisation which believes in love and care, DRF team decided to go for a 5 day retreat which included team building sessions and exercises other than visit to different spots in Naran, followed by yoga sessions with the help of trained professionals.

Nighat Dad on the frontline of weaving a feminist canvas

By Annick Cojean for Le Monde

Nighat Dad spoke to one of the leading french newspapers about her struggle and experience as a feminist activist who not only is working on the protection of digital rights, against harassment but is also taking an active part in organising the women’s liberation movement in the country.

Nighat Dad spoke on Neo News about internet shutdowns Jammu-Kashmir

Nighat Dad spoke to Neo News on the recent Netblocks and Operations of tech giants in Pakistan with reference to censorship of reports on human rights violations in Jammu-Kashmir.

https://youtu.be/C9O3Au1bR1Y

Nighat Dad talked to the World Association of Newspapers and News
publishers regarding online abuse and harassment

Nighat Dad’s conversation with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers on The war online: Abuse and harassment, and what journalists are doing about it

https://blog.wan-ifra.org/2019/09/13/podcast-the-war-online-abuse-and-harassment-and-what-journalists-are-doing-about-it

Nighat Dad’s comments on How the rumour of a baby killer vaccine caused panic in a Pakistani city for TRT World

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/how-the-rumour-of-a-baby-killer-vaccine-caused-panic-in-a-pakistani-city-29501

Meeting on Collaborations for local media development organizations and journalists on 19th September in Islamabad

DRF participated and moderated a meeting with local media development organisations with the aim of mapping emerging issues in the media landscape. The meeting was a step towards working towards coalition-building and partnerships within civil society groups.

DRF collaborates with UNESCO to mark International Day for the Universal Access to Information in Pakistan on 26th September in Lahore

In partnership with UNESCO Islamabad, DRF commemorated the International Day for the Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) 2019 at ICS, University of Punjab on Thursday, September 26, 2019. The event was organized in partnership with the European Union, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Embassy of Sweden in Pakistan, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and civil society partner Digital Rights Foundation (DRF). At the event, the Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Ms. Ingrid Johansson,gave the opening remarks  along with the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Mr. Wouter Plomp. Speakers at the event included Mr. Zahid Abdullah, the Federal Information Commissioner; Mr. Mahboob Qadir Shah; the Chief Punjab Information Commissioner; Anoosha Shaigan from Courting the Law; Mr. Nabeel Qadeer and Usama Khilji from Bolo Bhi. UNESCO Representative Pakistan, Ms. Vibeke Jensen gave closing remarks. The Deputy Head of mission at European Union Delegation to Pakistan, Ms. Anne Marchal also attended the event.

Gender & Privacy Session at Kinnaird College for Women

DRF conducted a session with students at Lahore’s Kinnaird College for Women on the 6th of September on the digital right to privacy, its importance and the intersectional relation between gender and privacy.

The audience comprised of a little under 100 gender studies and law students and it made for an interactive session with considerable back and forth on the issues pertaining to young women in the online sphere.

Women Parliamentarians Support Group event by Tabeer & PILDAT

DRF presented its ‘Online Participation of Female Politicians’ study to a working group of women politicians and parliamentarians at an event organized by PILDAT and Tabeer. The study, which was released last year in the aftermath of the Pakistan’s General Elections looked into the experience of female politicians in the online sphere, both in terms of their campaigning and how public perception and trolling affected them.

DRF conducted a session on women’s rights and digital security especially cyber harassment

Jannat Fazal from DRF delivered a session on Women's Rights and Digital Security especially Cyber-Harassment in Lahore on September 5, 2019 organized by Rozan for the Pakistan Forum for Democrating Policing Punjab Chapter.  This session was aimed at building the capacity and to increase awareness regarding digital rights and making the cyber space safer for the forum members.

DRF at NCHR consultation on guidelines to protect human rights defenders

DRF participated in a consultation jointly organized by BLUE VEINS, WISE, PHRDN and NCHR in Lahore on september 3, 2019. The consultation was to discuss the NCHR policy guidelines on the protection of Human Rights Defenders.The policy guidelines advocate for stronger legal recognition and protection of human rights defenders in Pakistan recognizing their important work and role in society.

Climate March: DRF also joined the digital #globalclimatestrike from 20th to 27th September

DRF’s website went on a digital climate strike this year on account of the Global #ClimateStrike. With the ever changing problem of climate change it is important for us to recycle and conserve our planet. DRF shut it’s website off for a day this year as a reminder for everyone to do more and contribute in saving our planet.

DRF at round-table on Protection against harassment of women at workplace act (2010)

Our Legal Officer, Barrister Jannat Ali Kalyar attended a Round-table discussion for the review of Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace act (2010), organized by the National Commission on the Status of Women on the 26th of September. There she raised concerns over the implementation of the Act, the challenges that the complainants face in filing their complaint and the way forward.

DRF at Digital Youth Summit (DYS)


Our Legal Officer, Barrister Jannat Ali Kalyar attended the Digital Youth Summit (DYS) that took place in Peshawar from the 28th to the 29th of September where she spoke on Digital Privacy, Cyber Security and the Future of Citizenship in Pakistan. She also stressed on the need to exercise our right to information to hold private and public bodies in control of our data accountable.

November 05, 2019 - Comments Off on Pakistan ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House in the 2019 Freedom on the Net Report for eight years in a row

Pakistan ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House in the 2019 Freedom on the Net Report for eight years in a row

Freedom House released its Freedom on the Net (FoTN) report for the year 2019, titled “The Crisis of Social Media” to reflect the plethora of issues emerging on social media. The report finds an overall decline in global internet freedom for the ninth consecutive year in 2019. It is noted that while “social media at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamental freedoms.” The report focuses on developments that occurred between June 2018 till May 2019.

Pakistan’s ranking on the report remains “Not Free” for the coverage period, with its score decreasing from 27 to 26. Internet freedom declined during this report’s coverage period due to authorities’ increased blocking of political, social, and cultural websites. The general election environment in July 2018 saw connectivity restrictions and increased disinformation. Meanwhile, authorities upped their efforts to silence critical journalists and activists using a range of techniques. Users were again sentenced to death on charges of posting blasphemous content online, although their convictions are under appeal. 

The report for Pakistan was authored by Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and evaluated through the methodology developed by Freedom House. The report methodology assesses 65 countries across the world, based on three broad criteria: obstacles to access; limits on content; and violations of user rights. Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of DRF, stated that “the score this year is the culmination of short-term and regressive policies by successive governments. Years worth of draconian legislation and investment in structures that stymie freedom of expression have led to an environment where the internet in Pakistan is more unsafe and less inclusive.”

Key developments during the coverage period include:
  • Authorities shut down mobile and internet service during protests and in the lead-up to the July 2018 general elections, in both populous cities and less developed regions.
  • Over 800,000 websites hosting political, religious, and social content remain blocked. Voice of America’s websites in Urdu and Pashto were temporary inaccessible during the coverage period, as was the website of the leftist Awami Workers Party.
  • Inauthentic content and automated accounts impacted the online landscape. It emerged, for instance, that bots supporting various political parties surfaced ahead of the July 2018 general elections, while Facebook removed content it claimed to be linked to the Pakistani military’s public relations department.
  • In December 2018, two brothers were sentenced to death for blasphemy, for allegedly sharing “disrespectful material” about the prophet Mohammad on their website in 2011.
  • The government increased social media monitoring, announcing a new system to target extremism, hate speech, and anti-national content. The announcement came a month before the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into journalists and activists supporting murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi on social media.
  • Activists and bloggers faced physical attacks and death threats during the coverage period, while several journalists were booked under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
The full report can be accessed here. Pakistan’s country-specific report is available here: https://www.freedomonthenet.org/country/pakistan/freedom-on-the-net/2019.

#FreedomOnTheNet