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 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.

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

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

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: