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September 15, 2023 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation celebrates Seven Years of Resilient Voices in the Media through it’s conference

Digital Rights Foundation celebrates Seven Years of Resilient Voices in the Media through it’s conference

September 15, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) held a conference titled, ‘Celebrating Resilient Voices in the Media’ on  Friday, 15th September 2023 at Mariott Hotel, Islamabad. The conference was marked as a celebratory event of DRF’s work and achievements with women journalists in the country, particularly through its Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR). The conference brought together journalists, civil society, government representatives and other stakeholders to discuss the state of media and the challenges that women journalists face in the country and celebrate their achievements despite the difficult circumstances they face working in the field. The conference had an exciting line-up of three panels to delve into DRF’s engagement with the journalist community in Pakistan and showcased an art exhibition of hand-drawn illustrations from DRF’s magazine, Digital 50.50.

The event started off with welcome remarks by Maryam Saeed, Program Manager at Digital Rights Foundation, who added, “We have gathered today to focus on what we have built at DRF over the past seven years. We are celebrating abundance today, of the relationships and friendships our NWJDR has developed and nurtured throughout our journey.” Maryam talked about the accomplishments of the seven-year project amplifying the experience of working with and supporting women journalists across Pakistan. She also highlighted the importance of DRF’s nationwide network of women journalists which serves as a safe space where these women turn to each other for support and solidarity in the absence of support mechanisms.

In our seven-year journey with the NWJDR, we have conducted capacity-building workshops on online safety, ethical journalism, gender-sensitive reporting and media law with more than 1,000 journalists across Pakistan. In 2020, DRF found Pakistan’s first feminist e-magazine, Digital 50.50, which provides a platform for women journalists in Pakistan to raise marginalized voices. In the past four years, DRF has launched 15 editions of the magazine featuring more than 100 original contributions from journalists and 120 hand-drawn illustrations depicting the articles on digital rights covered in the magazine. We also initiated a trend of annual Residential Retreats for the Collective Well-being of women journalists in Pakistan and have so far hosted three Retreats with more than 30 participants attending each of these.

The 1st Secretary of Political Affairs for the Netherlands Embassy, Ms. Lotte Hofste, shared opening remarks and stressed the need for a balanced gendered portrayal in media which shows a positive effect on both women and men. She also shared concerns about women journalists being attacked online mainly due to the intersection of gender and journalism and how online spaces are unsafe for them to pursue their careers.

DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad stated, “This conference is a celebration of the network of women journalists that we envisioned and established in 2017. Over the years, DRF has not only taken measures to empower women journalists in the media but also supported them in ensuring their presence in online spaces is safe and rewarding. As the world is increasingly becoming more restricted in terms of free expression, we have gathered together today to celebrate these women and their resilience and perseverance in working in Pakistan’s male-dominated media spaces.” Nighat also highlighted how the harassment and intimidation that women journalists face act as a barrier for aspiring journalists to enter the field and shed light on the power of resilience exhibited by the seasoned journalists who were present at the event.

The first panel of the conference, ‘Unpacking the Mosaic of Digital 50.50’ was a conversation with the contributors of Digital 50.50 moderated by Maryam Saeed. The panelists included women journalists, Umaima Ahmed, Khalida Niaz and Aneela Ashraf, and Digital 50.50 illustrator Bushra Saleem. Khalida Niaz shared her experience of working on stories from tribal areas in Pakistan and the difficulties women journalists face in making their voices heard. She said, “platforms like Digital 50.50 are crucial to amplify women’s voices through different mediums and local languages to cater to a large audience”.

The second panel of the event was on ‘Digital Rights for journalists and media practitioners: where are we headed’ which was moderated by Benazir Shah. The panel focused on the landscape of the media in Pakistan and was joined by panelists Afshan Masab, Insiya Syed, Fauzia Yazdani and Annie Shirazi. Benazir's interventions around journalist safety and shrinking media spaces were eye-opening. She posed questions to the panel about media censorship & the role of journalists in providing access to news a vital one at the end of the panel.

The third panel moderated by Zainab Durrani, “From cyberbullying to legal action: online harassment against journalists” was joined by Malik Kamran Rajar, Secretary National Commission of Human Rights, Usama Khilji, Irum Shujah and Hyra Basit. Usama said, “Many media houses do not have policies that cater to women to begin with. There have been instances where women are fired when they are expecting and women journalists suffer greatly in their profession as a consequence of lack of a policy and legal framework.” Furthermore, NCHR Secretary added, “As Commission, it is our duty to identify the gaps in the system. And our complaint system can be expanded and a complaint filed with NCHR will see a recourse more efficiently especially if the state fails to respond.”

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO 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 and online violence against women.

For more information log on:


#ResilienceInMedia2023 #NWJDR2023


Seerat Khan
[email protected]

Anam Baloch
[email protected]

Maryam Saeed
[email protected]

September 12, 2023 - Comments Off on August 2023 Newsletter: DRF joins the Global Network Initiative (GNI)

August 2023 Newsletter: DRF joins the Global Network Initiative (GNI)

Nighat Dad meeting with UK High Commisioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott

DRF’s Nighat Dad met with the UK High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott in Lahore to discuss the current state of Digital rights in Pakistan among other civil society leaders.

Policy Intiatives:

Digital Rights Foundation Joins Global Network Initiative (GNI)

DRF is thrilled to join GNI; GNI helps companies respect freedom of expression and privacy rights when faced with government pressure to hand over user data, remove content, or restrict communications. They are a growing alliance of Internet and telecom-munications companies, human rights and press freedom groups, investors, and academic institutions from around the world. We are pleased to be part of a network that works on advancing accountability to advocating for laws and policies that protect free expression and privacy rights worldwide, our members are working together to get results.

DRF issues statement on the horrible Jaranwala incident

DRF launches Exploring Jurisprudence on Transgender Rights: A Comparative Study on Modern Islamic Frameworks, Equality, Privacy Rights and Gender-based Violence.

In light of the recent Federal Shariat Court judgment on the ‘Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018’, DRF conducted a study understand the legality of transgender rights from a constitutional, Islamic jurispduence, privacy and gender-based violence perspective.

Read here

Review of 2023: Digital Rights in Pakistan

DRF's interns Rameen Durrani and Maham Sohail this year developed a Review of 2023: Digital Rights in Pakistan of the digital rights space. The review seeks to study the impact on the digital economy due to frequent internet shutdowns.

Read here

Intern Blogs: Creative Freedom vs. Societal Sensitivities

Our brilliant intern Rameen Durrani wrote a thought-provoking and timely blogpost on the limitations placed on creative expression through vague and arbitrary decisions by regulatory bodies in Pakistan.

Read the blog here.

National AI Policy

DRF submitted a comprehensive analysis on the current National AI policy including a section by section breakdown with international best practices and the current complementary legislation. Read in detail here

Legal Analysis: Personal Data Protection Bill 2023

DRF published a legal analysis of the personal data protection bill 2023 introduced in Pakistan’s parliament. Digital Rights Foundation welcomed the progression of the Personal Data Protection Bill, and raised questions regarding data localisation requirements and independence of the proposed Commission.

Read the detailed analysis here

DRF gives Public Comment on Meta Oversight Board Political Dispute Ahead of Turkish Elections cases

DRF submitted its public comment in a case where the Meta Oversight Board overturned Meta's original decisions to remove the posts of three Turkish media organisations containing a similar video of a politician confronting another in public. DRF’s comment also posited that the removal was against norms of free speech, speaking from its experiences of political speech being censored in Pakistan.

Link to DRF’s comment.

Link to OSB decision.
Press Coverage:
Muzzling digital media | The News

DRF’s Director of Research and Policy wrote about the barrage of legislation that are tightening the noose on digital rights in Pakistan and making it hard for the average person to keep up with all the new developments.

Link to article:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s former Cabinet Secretary for Education and Foreign Affairs to lead Commonwealth observers for Zimbabwean Elections | The Zimbabwean

The Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Nighat Dad, was mentioned in the article as one of the Commonwealth Observer Group members.

Link to article:
Ahead of election, Pakistan introduces new laws to stifle dissent | Global Voices

DRF’s Legal analysis of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 was cited in this article and the critique and recommendations in the article were highlighted and it was mentioned that it was presented to the government in July 2023 to enhance the bill draft's quality.

Link to article:
AI Charter in Media: 10 individuals and 6 additional partner organisations join with RSF before the first working session | Reporters Without Borders RSF

Nighat Dad, Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation was mentioned

Link to article:
Decolonising Data for Data Justice

DRF’s programs and communications lead wrote a piece for on Decolonising Data for Data Justice and highlighted the social injustices through the datafication of our lives.

Read the piece here
Nighat Dad’s interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation

DRF’s Nighat Dad’s interview was featured in the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation highlighting her journey as a digital rights feminist activist working in Pakistan and the journey of Digital Rights Foundation as an organization tackling cyber harassment in the country.

Link to piece


DRF Executive Director’s meeting with NCRC Pakistan Chairperson

DRF's Executive Director, Nighat Dad met with National Commission on The Rights of Child (NCRC) Pakistan Chairperson Ayesha Raza Farooq. discuss online abuse, digital safety, and ways to protect children from cyberbullying and online sexual abuse.  The two also discussed measures to be adopted in light of the country's growing number of child abuse cases.



DRF attended a consultation hosted by HRCP on Tackling Misinformation Surrounding The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act

DRF provided its input based on its research on gender disinformation and rising trends of disinformation targeting the transgender and khawajasira community in Pakistan. The consultation was held on August 8, 2023 by a range of lawyers, journalists, and members of civil society.

Read DRF’s comparative study on the jurisprudence regarding transgender rights here.
AprIGF 2023: Malicious Convergence: Addressing Emerging Trends of Gendered Hate Speech in South Asia

DRF conducted a session with POV and Hashtag Generation on Malicious Convergence: Emerging Trends of Gendered Hate Speech in South Asia at the Asia Pacific Internet Governance Forum 2023. Shmyla Khan the research and policy director at DRF moderated the session and Seerat Khan programs and communications lead spoke on the panel. The session highlighted the emerging trends of hate speech in South Asia. Saritha Irugalbandara from Hashtag Generation spoke about similar trends in Sri Lanka and Prarthana Mitra from POV India also presented case studies from India. Rumky Farhana from Article 19 also shared insights from Bangladesh and moderated the session on-site. DRF’s team also presented the work of the cyber harassment helpline and resource mechanisms available to counter gendered hate speech.

Splice Media Workshop

DRF attended a workshop hosted by Splice Media, supported by Free Press Unlimited. The workshop focused on strategies to build a viable and sustainable media start up.

Provincial Ombudsperson Punjab organized a meeting/discussion on better implementation of the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 (Amendment 2012)

On 28 August 2023, DRF attended a meeting titled “Better Implementation of Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 (Amendment 2012)” arranged by the Ombudsperson, Ms. Nabila Hakim Khan, in Lahore. In light of the increasing number of harassment cases within educational institutions, this meeting included a panel discussion consisting of human rights activists, lawyers, and stakeholders from civil society. Starting with a brief presentation on the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 (Amendment 2012), the meeting then led to a discussion about introducing methods for public awareness regarding anti-harassment laws, while also addressing challenges pertaining to human rights enforcement. The objective of the meeting was to collaboratively devise a plan to address challenges regarding the effective implementation of the law and to propose amendments and recommendations for strengthening the application of anti-harassment laws.

Training with Human Rights Defenders by DRF’s Legal Team:

On 17 August 2023, DRF conducted a training session with human rights defenders. The session was initiated with a brief overview of the FIA and proceeded to cover the comprehensive discussion on Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights), Act 2018, cyber laws, and defamation law concerning human rights defenders and activists. The discussion further focused on the recent Shariat Petition verdict, which striked down some provisions of Transgender Act, and explored its impact on the community.

Investigative Fact Checking Skills Training with Africa Women Journalism Project (AWJP)

DRF conducted an online training workshop with women journalists from across Africa on the issue of gender disinformation on August 30, 2023. The session built the capacity of these journalists to monitor, document and report on gender disinformation trends in their region as well as providing an opportunity for knowledge-sharing across the Global South.

Peacemakers Program about Social Media and Hate Speech

DRF representatives partook in a session at the Grief Directory and the session was about making young adults aware of the different ways in which hate speech manifests on digital platforms and the safety measures we can take address the issue. This was arranged for their summer interns.

DRF’s Online Safety Training Session at Maati TV

DRF’s communications manager and digital security trainer  gave a training at the Interactive Resource Centre and Maati TV residency for Digital Storytelling and Social Media Advocacy workshop for journalists and content creators from Multan and Quetta.

DRF at Meta APAC Youth & Safety Summit

The Digital Rights Foundation was invited to join in the Meta Youth & Safety Summit that took place in Singapore from the 28th-30th of August 2023.

Program Manager Zainab Durrani represented the organization and delivered a spotlight presentation on the work our Cyber Harassment Helpline does and the partnership DRF maintains with Meta through which non-consensual image sharing can be reported. The portal then designates a unique identity to each reported image and ensures said data cannot be shared online.

Additionally, the Summit allowed for a robust exchange of ideas, trends and projects that each organization has accomplished or is currently working on, with excellent strategies and initiatives coming to light from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Australia, Taiwan, Thailand and many more Asia Pacific countries.

Centre for Excellence in Journalism Session:

The Digital Rights Foundation was represented in a session held by the IBA Centre for Excellence in Journalism on the 1st of August 2023.

The session ‘Data Protection: Is the law actually protective?’ was conducted online and streamed live via CEJ at IBA’s Facebook as well and can be viewed here.

Zainab Durrani, Program Manager for DRF’s data privacy portfolio participated in the session and addressed queries regarding the latest (2023) draft of the Personal Data Protection Bill by the Ministry of IT, including reservations and our legal analysis of the proposed legislation.

The session was moderated by Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi and other esteemed panelists included Mubariz Siddiqui of Carbon Law, Misbah Naqvi of i2i Ventures and Imran Moinuddin of VentureDrive.

Consultation Session with National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC):

DRF attended a consultative meeting with NCRC and civil society organizations on “Child Rights Issues, Challenges and Way Forward in Punjab.” The meeting was chaired by NCRC chairperson Ayesha Raza Farooq. The purpose of the meeting was for civil society organizations to discuss the challenges and rights violations that children in Pakistan experience, and civil society organizations’ experiences and hurdles in working on child rights issues.

DRF highlighted that while the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 was passed, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) lacks the resources and staff to deal with the sheer number of cases they receive. This results in many cases being overlooked as FIA has to prioritize based on the severity of cases. DRF explained the need to take preventive measures related to online harms by raising awareness of the youth and educators on privacy and consent, online safety, responsible online behavior and how to report cyber harassment. DRF also spoke about its current efforts with the Punjab Education Department to start digital literacy and safety training with students and teachers in public schools.

DRF Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline

The Cyber Harassment Helpline received 198 complaints in total August, with 130 complaints by women. If you’re encountering a problem online, you can reach out to our helpline at 0800-39393, email us at [email protected] or reach out to us on our social media accounts. We’re available for assistance from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

IWF Portal

DRF in collaboration with Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children launched a portal to combat children’s online safety in Pakistan. The new portal allows internet users in Pakistan to anonymously report child sexual abuse material in three different languages- English, Urdu, and Pashto.

Meta along with Revenge Porn Helpline (RPH) has launched a portal to support victims of Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse (NCII). NCII is a free portal for reporting cases of sensitive or sexual content existing online. Once you report a case, the necessary steps will be taken to block the images from the platform.