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November 10, 2021 - Comments Off on October Newsletter 2021: Launch of Hamara Internet Website: A Digital Safe Space for Women

October Newsletter 2021: Launch of Hamara Internet Website: A Digital Safe Space for Women

Policy Initiatives and Online Campaigns:

Launch of Hamara Internet Website: A Digital Safe Space for Women

DRF launched the Hamara Internet website on the International Day of the Girl Child. The website aims to make the Internet a safe space that is inclusive of women belonging to all walks of life.  The website showcases stories, vlogs and blogs from women journalists across Pakistan, and delves into topics relating to gender and technology.

To find out more visit our website below:

www.hamarainternet.org

Campaign on International Day of the Girl Child

DRF conducted a social media campaign on 11th October which marks International Day of the Girl Child. DRF focused on the importance of equal access to technology for girls and women as a crucial factor in ensuring that they can acquire knowledge and information in order to participate in different spheres of life sufficiently.

 

Stakeholders' Consultation on Exercising Constitutional Freedoms Online in Pakistan

DRF’s legal team participated in the Stakeholders’ Consultation on the topic “Exercising Constitutional Freedoms Online: Prospects and Challenges” on October 9th, 2021. The meeting was organized by the Punjab Bar Council (PBC), Common Laws Company (CLC) and the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA).

The purpose of the consultation was to comprehend the issues and concerns of stakeholders, particularly journalists and human rights defenders in exercising fundamental constitutional freedoms in the online sphere in Pakistan.

Cyber Security Awareness Month

Cyber security awareness month was observed by raising awareness about key Digital Rights issues such as encryption and the importance of a free and accessible internet for all. DRF’s campaigns were geared towards educating followers about the importance of privacy and accessibility of information online while also celebrating the advantages of the Digital Age.

Events and Training Sessions:

DRF members conduct workshop for Students on Cyber Safety at Skill Share Week

DRF was invited to NGO Hamara Mustaqbil’s skill share week to conduct a workshop on Cyber Safety for students of O-Levels, A’-Levels and Matriculation. The workshop was held on 1st October and was geared towards equipping students with the knowledge related to safeguarding their privacy online and operating responsibly in the digital sphere.

Workshop on Cyber Crimes for Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD)

DRF conducted a workshop for female media professionals on cybercrimes and the important provisions present in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) that were relevant to such crimes.

Session on Understanding Online Safety

DRF conducted an online session on digital safety and security for media professionals on October 13th, 2021. Participants were introduced to potential cyber concerns and were given tips to secure their online presence as well as sensitive data.

Session on digital safety for women at Dastak Shelter Home

DRF conducted a digital safety and awareness session with women at Dastak shelter home on October 20th, appraising them to digital safety practices and practical tips they can use in their daily lives.

Pakistan’s Legal landscape and Media Law

DRF conducted a workshop for media professionals on October 20th based on understanding Pakistan’s legal landscape and the impact it has on their work in both online and offline spaces.

Training Session at Government College for Women, Lahore

DRF conducted an informative session on cyber harassment and privacy online at Government College for Women, Lahore on October 22nd. Nighat Dad spoke to the young women students about the importance of consent and keeping one’s data safe online. The session included discussions about harassment and how power dynamics are involved when an individual is being targeted online.

Network Engagement Program

DRF organized a one-day digital security training workshop for gender minorities in Lahore on 22nd October, 2021. Twenty-three members from the transgender community participated in the workshop and shared their unfiltered experiences regarding cyber harassment with the group. The session highlighted the by-laws and policy initiatives that were present to safeguard the rights of Pakistani citizens. Tips and detailed information relating to securing personal data was shared with the participants.  Using social media as a tool for advocacy and strategic capacity building was also discussed with the group.

Panel on Digital Disruption of Human Rights by Women in Law

DRF’s Director of Legal Affairs participated in a panel discussion on data protection which was hosted by the Women in Law Initiative, Islamabad Chapter in collaboration with the Ananke Girl Summit. A critical discussion was carried out regarding the Personal Data Protection Bill, and the impact this bill would have on the privacy of individuals online.

Media Coverage

Nighat Dad’s accomplishments in Digital Rights recognized by Ted Fellows Program

Our Executive Director was recognized by the prestigious Ted Fellows Program for her work in fighting against cyber harassment targeted at women and gender minorities. The efforts made by DRF to equip women with the resources and knowledge they require in order to take advantage of the internet were highlighted.

Covid-19 Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline

In October, the Cyber Harassment Helpline received a total of 292 complaints, with a majority of complaints being reported by females. These included 11 instances of domestic violence and physical harassment.

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline is open and available Monday to Friday, from 9AM to 5PM. The occurrence of harassment, both online and offline have significantly increased during Covid-19 and our Helpline team is committed to providing victims with the guidance they need to navigate through such difficult situations.

If you or someone you know is being harassed, bullied, or threatened online, please reach out to our Helpline at 0800-39393. You can send us a DM on any of our social media platforms. You don't have to suffer in silence!

Ab Aur Nahin: Since the start of COVID-19, domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. DRF has relaunched its Ab Aur Nahin initiative which is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse. Please contact us if you require assistance, free of charge.

Link can  be found here: www.abaurnahin.pk

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.

www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

 

October 7, 2021 - Comments Off on September 2021 Newsletter: Cyber Harassment Helpline receives 576 complaints

September 2021 Newsletter: Cyber Harassment Helpline receives 576 complaints

Policy Initiatives:

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline Statistics, August 2021

The Cyber Harassment Helpline reported receiving 576 complaints in the month of August, with 402 of these complaints being registered by women. A substantial number of complaints (241 in total) were related to varying forms of blackmail as well as the non-consensual use of information by perpetrators online.
These statistics highlight the prevalence of gender-based violence which women face online in Pakistan daily.

Our Helpline is dedicated to assisting victims of cyber harassment by providing support in the form of digital safety guidance, legal aid, and mental health assistance.

You can reach us at 0800-39393, 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm.

Submission of comments to Ministry for Personal Data Protection Bill 2021

DRF provided a series of comments and suggestions to the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications (MoITT) on its Personal Data Protection Bill of 2021, which is the fourth draft of the Bill released since 2018.

The official document by DRF can be found here:
https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/PDPB-2021-Submission-by-DRF.pdf

Online Campaigns and Initiatives:

DRF is all set to relaunch its Hamara Internet website

#HamaraInternetKyaHai

The website will feature insightful contributions from women journalists and writers focused on digital rights, gender and technology. New content such as blogs, vlogs and articles will serve as engaging content for our audiences.

DRF launches surveys  on Virtual Learning and Disinformation during the Covid-19 Pandemic

DRF is conducting research on the effects that Covid-19 has had on learning in schools with a focus on the shift  to virtual learning and the outcome this has had. There is also research being conducted on the role that fake news and disinformation have played in providing information to the public regarding crucial issues such as vaccination.

Events and Training Sessions

Retreat for Women Journalists for Digital Rights in Nathia Gali

DRF hosted a residency retreat for Women Journalists from across Pakistan in Nathia Gali from the 10th - 14th of  September. The retreat involved a number of activities geared towards encouraging journalists to inculcate self-care and well-being practices into their daily lives to be able to manage daily stressors better. These involved reinvigorating yoga sessions along with team building exercises such as campfire stories which really allowed the attendees to unwind and bond with each other. It also served as a wonderful opportunity for the journalists to network and create an avenue  of collectivized support which was accessible and effective.

Nighat Dad spoke on the panel “Does One Size Fit All? Regulating Content in the Digital Age”

Nighat participated as a guest speaker in the webinar centered around challenges that governments face in regulating digital content on the internet. The online event was  hosted by Quaid-i-Azam University in collaboration with BowerGroupAsia, a strategic advisory firm focusing on Asia-Pacific.

Digital Safety Training Session for Women Reporters at the Tribal News Network

Our Digital Safety Trainer Danish held a training session for women reporters organized by TNN on September 20th  in which he provided useful information regarding how one can keep themselves and their data safe while using online platforms.

Consultation Event by Huqooq-e-Pakistan Project

DRF attended a Consultation session on the 21st and 22nd of September at Pearl Continental, Lahore to discuss the vision and priorities of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW). The event was organized by Huqooq-e-Pakistan Project, a joint initiative by the European Union and the Ministry of Human Right in Pakistan. DRF engaged in relevant discussions with the panel and provided recommendations for the NCSW.

“Defending Rights and Challenging Discourse”  Event

Our Executive Director Nighat Dad and Director for Research and Policy, Shmyla Khan attended the Jinnah Institute’s Womansplaining Writer’s Conversation on 27th September, 2021. The panel was hosted by Zahid Rehman, with Rimmel Mohyudin also participating. DRF has contributed towards the Womansplaining book by writing a chapter in it. The book has been edited by Senator Sherry Rehman this year.

You can find the conversation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiuLNkx6yG0

Media Coverage:

Nighat Dad meets with young women journalists from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Nighat Dad, along with Marium Chaudry (founder of The Current) met with a group of young women journalists from KPK through an event organized  by the Tribal News Network (TNN) in collaboration with Thomson Foundation. Nighat spoke to the women about her experience working in Digital Rights and how she had gotten to where she was, including the obstacles she faced along the way. The session proved to be inspirational and insightful for the young women who were attending.

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke on the Samaa TV Morning Show

Nighat spoke to Samaa TV on Friday, 17th September about the importance of digital literacy regarding social media content that is malicious and classifies as defamation according to the law. She also spoke about the need for ethical journalism and for social media organizations to take  more responsibility in filtering out content that thrives on false information discrimination on their platforms.

Blog post on “Digital and Social Transformations in Pakistan During Covid-19”

DRF’s summer intern worked alongside our Research and Policy team to produce a survey to assess the impact of increased digitization across Pakistan due to the pandemic, and the digital and social transformations that have occurred as a result.

Read the blog here: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/digital-and-social-transformations-in-pakistan-during-covid-19/

Covid-19 Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline is open and available Monday to Friday, from 9AM to 5PM. The occurrence of harassment, both online and offline have significantly increased during Covid-19 and our Helpline team is committed to providing victims with the guidance they need to navigate through such difficult situations.

If you or someone you know is being harassed, bullied, or threatened online, please reach out to our Helpline at 0800-39393. You can even send us a DM on any of our social media platforms. You don't have to suffer in silence!

Ab Aur Nahin: In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse.

Link can  be found here: www.abaurnahin.pk

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.

www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

September 29, 2021 - Comments Off on Evaluating Applications Developed by the Pakistani Government

Evaluating Applications Developed by the Pakistani Government

Faizan Ul Haq is currently a Senior at LUMS majoring in History. His interests include tech, philosophy, and social justice

A non-exhaustive database of mobile phone applications developed by the Pakistani government has been compiled by Faizan and can be accessed here.

It has been widely noted that Pakistan’s potential for IT development has grown vastly in the last decade or so. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s Annual Report for 2019-2020, in the period from 2016 to 2020, Mobile phone data usage in Pakistan has increased from 614 petabytes to 4,498 – an increase of over 700% in just half a decade. In the same time period, the distribution of broadband services has doubled. While numerous reasons can be speculated for leading this change (from the availability of cheaper smartphones from Chinese providers like Q-Mobile and Huawei, to the increasing importance of IT in business development, and the proliferation of mobile internet), it is obvious either way that the digital world in Pakistan now presents a new avenue that can be harnessed for better governance and delivering services.

It makes sense, then, that in late 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the “Digital Pakistan” initiative. In its policy objectives, what stands out is the emphasis towards using digital applications (henceforth referred to as apps) for “e-governance” and in “key socio-economic sectors”. While there have been a few apps released previously to help with the aforementioned, the current government is seems intent on maximizing this newfound potential.

Over a 100 different apps (as of the summer 2021) have been released on the Google Playstore for Android phones and the Apple store for iOS device by both the government, at the provincial, federal and, at times, the district level. Primarily developed by different provincial IT boards, they cover a wide range of functions including education, the regulation of pre-existing government bodies, agriculture, and online ticketing and booking. Some apps are meant only for citizens of a particular locale (such as the City Islamabad app), while others are targeted to people of a specific profession (the Lahore and Sindh High Court apps are targeted towards the legal community). A few apps have also been released to help deal with health and safety emergencies, such as the Baytee app meant to increase women’s safety and a number of apps aimed at helping track and register COVID cases in Pakistan.

However, just publishing apps does not immediately mean that those apps have helped fix the underlying issues, or that they have been effective in their stated objectives. Quite a few of these apps have dubious efficacy, and some appear to not work at all. There are a few clear trends as to which apps have worked and which have not.

A number of apps profess a wide range of features. The “City Islamabad” app promises a lot. With the goal of “bridge(ing) the gap between citizens and government” by removing the need to go to government offices to access public services and departments, the app is supposed to provide quick access to numerous forms and payment services that would otherwise would have only been available therein. In practice, the Playstore review page is full of complaints that not all of the forms actually work. People have pointed out that tokens generated aren’t always registered by relevant financial departments. Certain forms load indefinitely – either they have not been programmed in properly, or the forms just are not available on the app. At the same time though, certain key features of the app still work and function effectively. The part of the app that provides information on Islamabad’s major landmarks and public facilities loads instantly and provides accurate information, while a portion of the userbase reports successful payment of tax related tokens and response upon submitting complaints. It appears that while a wide number of features have been programmed in, not all of them are perfectly useable.

A similar issue exists with what is arguably the government’s flagship application, the Pakistan Citizen Portal. Most of the reviews posted in September and August 2021 are entirely negative and allude largely to the same issue: a large number of the complaints registered on the app do not actually appear to lead to anything concrete and are instead marked “resolved” without any appropriate action being taken. While this is likely not representative of all users who have used the app, it does imply a degree of miscoordination between the app’s complaint registration mechanism and the departments that are meant to cater to it. If it’s true that complaints being marked as resolved does not actually mean any action has been taken, the widely quoted  statistics on the application’s website need to be taken with a grain of salt, it’s unlikely that each of the 3.1 million . It also speaks to the limitations inherent in e-governance and service delivery through apps – the issues that are already present in government bodies are likely to be reproduced through the functioning of the app. For example, if government bodies continue to treat cases of harassment lightly because of misogynistic attitudes, then the solution lies in a structural reform of said government bodies instead of opening more digital portals to file complaints through.

On the contrary, apps that are targeted towards a specific group of people appear to have had more success. There are two broad types of apps like this: some that have been created solely for the use of people in certain government departments, and others for everyone who works in a particular profession. Apps in the former category include the “Price Magistrate” app – a complaint management app meant specifically for district magistrates. This app has seen less use compared to other apps on this list, and its review section is full of users confused at the lack of a registration option. Of the few reviews that do appear to be from its intended user base, it seems that the app functions well.

An app’s functionality however is not just defined by how well certain features work. Overtime, as more bugs are reported, new devices are released and as operating systems go through several iterations, the publisher needs to provide constant support through updates to ensure their functionality. This is especially important in Pakistan, where Android users are likely to be using a very diverse set of devices given the numerous smartphone companies that exist. Additionally, smartphones in different price ranges have specific limitations – differences in screen resolution, RAM, processing power, and networking features mean that developers need to ensure that their apps can work despite these limitations. If this diversity isn’t catered for, sections of the Pakistani population that can only afford cheap smartphones with weaker specifications are likely to be left out. This means that the demographic which is least likely to be digitally literate will now also face bugs and compatibility issues that make it harder for them to use these applications. Updates are also important to address any security issues on the app, most application updates are issued to fix security bugs that are discovered later on and unanticipated backdoors.

The most prolific publisher of Government apps thus far has been the Punjab IT Board (compared to the other regional boards and other publishers, who barely have half as many apps as the Punjab board between them). On their Android publisher page alone, they have over 70 apps published. Yet, their support for these apps has been sporadic. More than half of these have not been updated even once in 2021. While at best, this might lead to most of these apps functioning albeit with bugs, quite a few of them have been rendered completely unusable as a result. A large number of users report that quite a few of these apps no longer have a working system for logging in users owing to an issue in generating and processing an OTP key. Other apps have been rendered completely unusable – the Agri-Smart app has been rendered completely unusable for certain Android users since their devices’ IMEI codes cannot be accessed. These issues have remained unaddressed for months on end.

It is unclear what the status of these apps is – if such glaring issues exist, has support for them been dropped completely? This seems to be the case, because other apps have had the publisher release frequent updates and engage with reviews that have pointed out issues. The fact that these apps remain available for download despite issues with their usability and a lack of developer support is troubling and speaks to a pattern where apps are launched without the necessary infrastructure to conduct follow-ups. This has caused a fair amount of confusion on app stores, as people continue to download said apps and leave negative reviews because of the clear lack of functionality.

If this is demonstrative of a communication gap between app developers and the intended user base, it is not the end of it. Certain apps certainly seem like they are designed to be used by a large user base, but evidently have not been used as such. The Click ECP app meant to facilitate voters during each election cycle and the Covid-19 Tracker app for Lahore both remain with only over a 1000+ downloads on the Playstore, when it is intuitive that their usage numbers should be far in the thousands. The “Equal Access App” meant to help disabled individuals also remains unused as its user base still is unengaged. At best, this is likely to result in certain apps being unused by their target demographic. At worst though, this can open the door to privacy violations.

Upon first use, a lot of apps require permission to access certain information and features of a phone. While this can vary from app to app, the general rule of thumb is that apps tend to only ask for those permissions that are core to an app’s functionality. Instagram, for example, will only ask for permission to use your camera when you open the in-app camera for the first time. However, even this can run awry – the Facebook app has long been under suspicion for secretly recording conversations for advertisement purposes. A number of apps supported by the Pakistan government, however, ask for a lot of permissions right at first launch. The Pehchaan app (currently unavailable on the Playstore as of September 2021) immediately requests permission to access a user’s location on launch. The “Forest Management Information System” (FMIS) app requests not only access to location services, but also to use the phone’s camera, to “modify and delete contents” of media files saved on device or USB storage, and of Wi-Fi connections. Why the app requires any of this is puzzling, especially since there is no use for any of these features immediately after an app has been launched. This runs afoul of the Principle of Data Minimization – the idea that data collectors should only request and use data that is needed for a specific purpose. Ideally, that purpose should be communicated clearly and a privacy policy should be attached in any scenario where private data is needed. Given that there is little communication from the developers of why these permissions are needed in the first place, it’s extremely troubling that many people in Pakistan could agree to these permissions just to launch an app without realizing the extent to which their privacy is invaded. While Google Play store does include a requirement that each app have a privacy policy attached, the Punjab IT Board’s Privacy Policy seems inadequate. The fact that it’s a generic policy means that it does not cater to the way each individual app may request, use, and store user data. By contrast, the City Islamabad App’s privacy policy and the Pakistan Citizens Portal’s privacy policy at least both specify the kind of data that may be collected. The Punjab IT Board’s privacy policy might already be violated by the FMIS collecting the “the minimum amount of information” required by the app. It is clear that the Punjab IT Board’s privacy policy – under which most of the apps released so far fall under – can be comprehensive and applied more rigorously.

Ultimately, the legitimacy of the Digital Pakistan initiative is worth questioning. Despite the massive growth in Pakistan’s access to these digital technologies and the potential therein, the system put in place to actualize it deserves further scrutiny. The reception of apps published by the government needs to move beyond a tokenistic celebration of each app’s release, to an evaluation of their actual benefit and long-term functioning.

September 17, 2021 - Comments Off on June, July and August 2021 Newsletter: DRF launches Digital 50.50 on Online Freedom of Assembly and Association

June, July and August 2021 Newsletter: DRF launches Digital 50.50 on Online Freedom of Assembly and Association

Online Campaigns and Initiatives:

DRF launches Digital 50.50 on Online Freedom of Assembly and Association

DRF launched it's second last edition of Digital 50.50 on August 23. It was focused on online freedom of assembly and association. As the world retreated inside the homes during the Coronavirus lockdown in 2020, protests were still held in both online spaces and the streets across the world. This reminded us of the importance of freedom of assembly and association as fundamental human rights and essential requirements for a functioning democracy. Journalists from both Urdu and English media shared their thoughts and words with us on some interesting aspects around the theme.

Link to magazine: https://www.canva.com/design/DAEmriH0G7Y/dfnTz_2bRDrVaqIvZq5MYA/view
Some ways you can secure your snapchat

DRF’s cyber harassment helpline has been seeing an increasing number of calls about people having their Snapchat accounts hacked. It's always a good time to remind ourselves of some of the basics of being safe online. We must always be mindful of our digital safety, given how frequent hacks are becoming.

Blame the criminal, not the victim


DRF shared a series of posts highlighting the importance of accountability in the current situation of physical, verbal and emotional attacks on women. The ongoing femicide in the country is quite distressing and in case of help individuals can reach out to the Cyber Harassment Helpline.

 

Digital 50.50 edition on ‘Loving Yourself in the Era of Trolling’

DRF launched the Digital 50.50 edition, "Loving Yourself In The Era Of Trolling" issue which is packed full of powerful writing from womxn all across Pakistan who have had to deal with immense trolling for simply existing online.

Read the full magazine here:

https://canva.com/design/DAEiAMh5ItM/1je9A13SXImSCLKtBmt-UA/view

Cyber Harassment Helpline’s campaign on key digital rights issues

 

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline in June shared a series of posts around cyber bullying, harassment, digital safety and infomatic posts around how to file a complaint with the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA).

Policy Initiatives:

Policy Brief on #AttacksWontSilenceUs - One year on

Last year, amid rising digital attacks against women journalists, we issued a statement signed by more than 150 women journalists and activists.

To evaluate where we stand a year later, we've launched a new policy brief. Read here: https://bit.ly/2VJeNGt

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline statistics for July 2021

In July, the Cyber Harassment Helpline received a total of 712 complaints, bringing a 54% increase in cases since June. Due to recent incidents and the spotlight on gender based violence, there has been a surge in awareness and resources being shared for the benefit of the public.

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline statistics for June 2021

According to DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline statistics in the month of June 2021, there was  an almost 40% increase in complaints compared to the previous month of May, 2021. This rise brought to light how much further we all have to go to work towards an equal and safe internet for all.

DRF’s study on Young People and Privacy in Online Spaces


DRF launched a study in June titled, "Young People & Privacy". The study looks at how young Pakistani teens interact with digital spaces and understand the concept of privacy.

You can read the entire study here: https://bit.ly/3wTeC8B

 

#PrivacyHumSabKeLiye

 

The Network of Women Journalists statement condemning the petition registered in Gujranwala for treason cases against notable Pakistani journalists

DRF’s Network of Women Journalists on Digital Rights released a statement in June condemning the petition registered in Gujranwala for treason cases against notable Pakistani journalists Hamid Mir and Asma Shirazi.

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline statistics for May 2021

For the month of May 2021, our Cyber Harassment Helpline received a total of 336 complaints.

Media Coverage:

Afghan people face an impossible choice over their digital footprint

Nighat Dad penned down the aftermath that the Afghan people face over their digital footprint.

Read the full piece here:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2287409-afghan-people-face-an-impossible-choice-over-their-digital-footprint/

Nighat Dad on 92 News about the digital gender divide

Nighat Dad spoke on Subh Savary Pakistan of 92 News regarding the digital gender divide in the country.

Link to interview: https://twitter.com/SubhSavarayPk/status/1427556824010665988?s=20

Nighat Dad spoke on PTV on gender based violence

DRF’s Nighat Dad on 16th August spoke on PTV World on gender based violence and how there is a need for more accountability to make safe spaces for women and gendered minorities.

Link to interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=RuPijVRTu4Q&ab_channel=PTVWorld

Nighat Dad mentioned in Pride of Pakistan

This independence day Nighat Dad was mentioned in the Pride of Pakistan piece by the news.

Read the full piece here:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/magazine/you/867898-pride-of-pakistan

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke to Dawn News about the domestic violence bill

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke on Dawn News on the domestic violence bill and why there is a need for such a bill.

Link to interview:

https://twitter.com/newseyeofficial/status/1412436814439215112?s=20

Events and Sessions:

Understanding the Legal Landscape and Media Law - 27th August

DRF, in collaboration with Free Press Unlimited conducted the first of its series of training based on media law for journalists on the 27th of August. The training was attended by both Urdu and English media and many journalists expressed interest in joining refreshers of the same. It covered Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and defamation laws among others.

WISE - Women in Struggle for Empowerment Seminar on The Role of Helplines in Countering Gender Based Violence - 25th August

The Cyber Harassment Helpline took part in a seminar organized by WISE on the role of helplines in working to assist in cases of gender based violence. The Helpline team shared the services it provides, how people can report instances of cyber crime to designated law enforcement authorities and what precautionary measures they can take in order to make themselves more secure online.

Workshop for Gender Minorities, Multan - 24th and 25th August:

DRF organized a two-day workshop for Gender minorities in Multan and the session aimed to create awareness among the Transgender community regarding the legal landscape that governs digital platforms, how to secure personal data and to avoid dangerous practices online that may put the Transgender community at risk.

A cyber-harassment awareness session was also conducted among the participants in which they were provided guidance on how to deal with harassment issues online during COVID-19. They were informed about how to reach out to DRF’s helpline if necessary. Helpline brochures and books were distributed amongst the participants along with hand sanitizers and face masks.

Online Training Session - Digital Safety in the Context of Advocacy movements and Human Rights - 19th August

An online training session regarding digital security within the context of advocacy movements and human rights was conducted.

This session focused on human rights defenders, specifically those belonging to minority communities, and how they can navigate through online spaces safely. Zanaya Chaudhry, a transgender activist, discussed the importance of managing online interactions, and the consequences minority communities faced when being drawn into controversial and potentially harmful online discourses. Zanaya shared a touching message with the participants regarding her personal experiences dealing with marginalization along with the challenges she had to face in order to achieve her objectives.

Nighat Dad spoke on panel ‘Why do we need a world where we control the internet?’

On 15th August Nighat Dad took part in a panel titled, ‘Why do we need a world where we control the internet?’ In the session she highlighted that the internet needs to be a safe space where nobody’s digital identity is threatened.

Nighat Dad  session on Violence Against Women: Challenges, Reform and the Pandemic

DRF’s Nighat Dad participated in the webinar ‘Violence Against Women: Challenges, Reform and the Pandemic’ on 19th July at SDPI. The session had renowned speakers discussing the ongoing femicide and the need for reform, especially during the pandemic.

DRF conducted an online training on gender sensitive reporting in mainstream and digital media

On 16th July, DRF hosted an online training with journalists from across the country on gender sensitive reporting. The training included components on understanding the changing terminology around gender, examples of biased news reports and guidelines on reporting in a gender sensitive manner. It also focused and how newsrooms can be sensitized towards being more gender-inclusive.

DRF conducted a training session on ensuring online safety for it's network of journalists on 12th July

The workshop was conducted via zoom considering the Covid situation. It was attended by journalists from digital and mainstream media across the country.

Nighat Dad on Unlock the Freedom with Tauseeq Haider

DRF’s Nighat Dad participated in Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s web-series ‘Unlock Freedom’ with Tauseeq Haider on 10th July. The session focused on internet freedom and digital rights in the country.

DRF on the launch of ‘Algorithmic Decision-Making in Pakistan: A challenge to Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination’

DRF’s Shmyla Khan took part in the Centre for Human Rights’ report launch on "Algorithmic Decision-Making in Pakistan: A Challenge to Right to Equality & Non-Discrimination” on 9th July 2021.

DRF conducted two sessions on Misinformation and Fake News in times of COVID19

DRF conducted sessions on the 6th and 8th of July with journalists and civil society on Misinformation and Fake News in times of COVID19. The session was conducted with the support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

Protecting your gatherings online: digitally-mediated assemblies and international law

DRF’s Nighat Dad participated in the session ‘Protecting your gatherings online: digitally-mediated assemblies and international law’ at RightsCon on July 7th. In the session our ED highlighted how policies made in the west have a ripple effect across the globe which is why policies should be thorough and fair.

DRF at #BalochistanYoungGirlsSummerCamp2021

DRF’s Nighat Dad held a session with #BalochistanYoungGirlsSummerCamp2021 on 29th June highlighting the importance of privacy online and also the importance of reclaiming online spaces and filing a complaint of online violence.

DRF conducted a webinar on the report launch of ‘Young People and Privacy in Digital Spaces’

DRF conducted a webinar on account of the report launch titled, ‘Young People and Privacy in Digital Spaces’ on 25th June. The team who worked on the report participated in the event and highlighted their findings in the report.

DRF conducted a session on 'bringing feminism to digital and mainstream media' on 18th June in Islamabad

The session was held in collaboration with Free Press Unlimited. It was attended by journalists from Urdu and English media. The topics covered included understanding the terminology of gender, reflecting on why the media is gender insensitive and guidelines to report in a gender sensitive manner.

DRF on Platform Futures session on Mobile Ecosystems: Opportunities and Challenges in the Asia-Pacific region

DRF participated in the session Mobile Ecosystems: Opportunities and Challenges in the Asia-Pacific region on 11th June. Nighat Dad of DRF took part in the discussion around platforms, access, markets, equity and Tiktok.

Listen to the full session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=160iBtfVBfA

RightsCon session on Amplifying the human impact of internet shutdowns - why it matters

Nighat Dad spoke on RightsCon on the session ‘Amplifying the human impact of internet shutdowns- why it matters’ on 11th June. The session highlighted how internet shutdowns have an adverse impact on human lives and how the internet now is a fundamental human right.

DRF at Article 19’s session on how civil society carves out space for change in South & Southeast Asia

DRF participated in RightsCon from 7th till 11th June and took part in Article 19’s session on how civil society carves out space for change in South & Southeast Asia. The session focused on how solidarity is important in a shrinking media environment in South and Southeast Asia.

Gender and Disinformation: Towards a Gender-Based Approach for Researchers, Activists and Allies

DRF, along with EU Disinfo Lab, co-hosted a Community Lab at RightsCon  titled: Gender and disinformation: towards a gender-based approach for researchers, activists, and allies on 10th June. Through an interactive discussion led by six facilitators, they explored the intersections of gender and disinformation in relation to conflict, political participation, activism, gender-based violence.

Asia Pacific Social Hour

DRF participated at RightsCon social hour on 10th June which was a relaxed discussion around the digital rights movement and how art and humor can be used to promote digital rights.

Digital Security: Perspective from the Margins in Asia

DRF’s Shmyla Khan participated in the RightsCon session on ‘Digital Security: Perspective from the Margins in Asia’ on 9th June which was hosted by Body and Data. Shmyla Khan highlighted how security needs to be redefined and broadened in the digital space. There was also a discussion around how there should be a wider debate around mental health and well being.

Gendered disinformation: How should democracies respond to this threat?

DRF’s Shmyla Khan spoke in the session ‘gendered disinformation: How should democracies respond to this threat?’ by Heinrich Böll Stiftung on 9th June. The event focused on how to improve responses to gendered disinformation online and what platforms can do to help.

Details of the session: https://calendar.boell.de/en/gendered-disinformation

Voicing the shutdowns #LetTheNetWork

DRF’s Nighat Dad participated in the RightsCon session ‘Voicing the shutdowns’ on 8th June 2021. In the session a much needed debate around internet shutdowns across the globe and strategies around it took place.

Silencing the silenced? The impact of takedown legislation on civil liberties and victims of human rights abuses

DRF’s Executive Director participated in the RightsCon session ‘Silencing the silenced? The impact of takedown legislation on civil liberties and victims of human rights abuses on 8th June. The session highlighted the impact of takedown laws on civil liberties and human rights abuses across the globe.

COVID-19 Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline is open and available Monday to Sunday, from 9AM to 5PM. If you or someone you know is being harassed, bullied, or threatened online, please reach out to our Helpline at 0800-39393. You can even send us a DM on any of our social media platforms. You don't have to suffer in silence!

Ab Aur Nahin: In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse. www.abaurnahin.pk

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. www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

 

 

 

September 8, 2021 - Comments Off on Digital and Social Transformations in Pakistan During Covid-19

Digital and Social Transformations in Pakistan During Covid-19

Huma was born and bred in Lahore and is currently studying Public Policy at NYU Abu Dhabi with a focus on gender studies and public health.

Introduction and objectives

At the start of the pandemic, the Digital Rights Foundation conducted a survey on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis in Pakistan. This survey was open from March to June 2020. The purpose of the survey was to assess the impact of increased digitisation across the country in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and take stock of the digital and social transformations as part of this process. Some baseline indicators that the survey aimed to measure were:

  • The access and quality of access respondents had to digital technologies, including but not limited to tech devices such as smartphones, laptops and broadband connections,
  • Understanding of online security and privacy among respondents, including concerns surrounding increased surveillance and tracking mechanisms during the pandemic
  • Usage patterns for technological devices and social media, before and during the pandemic,

Context

In a joint statement in March 2020, the Digital Rights Foundation and BoloBhi expressed the digital gap during the COVID-19 pandemic would exacerbate inequalities and social cleavages. According to the statement, “Internet access in Pakistan stands at around 35 percent, with 78 million broadband and 76 million mobile internet (3/4G) connections.”

According to the Inclusive Internet Index 2021, Pakistan fell into the last quartile of index countries, ranking 90 out of a 100; particularly low on indicators pertaining to affordability, from ranking 76 in 2019, just before the pandemic.

Furthermore, the statement also explained that mobile internet (often the most affordable mode of access) has been shut down in parts of Balochistan and ex-FATA due to generalised security reasons. Even for areas that do have access, internet speed varies based on one’s location. For instance, internet speed in Gilgit-Baltistan is significantly slower than internet speed in urban centers of Punjab and Sindh.

Lastly, the statement also expressed concerns that “lower-income families either do not own digital devices or they are shared by the entire family unit; this means that families with more than one member working from home or students with online classes will be forced to make a choice.”

Methodological Limitations

In light of these, certain limitations of the survey results need to be addressed. Firstly, as the survey was disseminated primarily online, through social media channels, messaging apps, and email, basic access to internet and wifi became a prerequisite for respondents. This left out a large majority of the population that have little to no access to the internet.

Secondly, the dissemination methods also reflect a certain cross section of the population who regularly use and access social media channels of their own accord, since this was the primary means of distribution.

Lastly, this survey was conducted in English and therefore respondents were limited to those who could understand and communicate in English particularly.

Demographic Summary

The geographic distribution of the respondents reflects the pattern of accessibility and digital connectivity expressed by the statement. Inhabitants of Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Faisalabad formed the majority of the respondents, with 48, 27, 24 and 11 responses from each city respectively. In total, there were 4 responses from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1 from Balochistan and none from Gilgit Baltistan.

We received a total of 128 responses to the survey. 71 (55%) respondents identified as females, 54 (41.9%) as males, with 1 gender non-binary individual and 2 respondents preferring not to disclose their gender.

53% of the respondents were between 25-34 years old, with those between 18 - 24 years and 35 - 44 years old forming the next biggest age brackets of respondents (20.3% and 19.5%, respectively). The large majority of our respondents were therefore employed on salary, self-employed or students. As shown below, while a diverse range of incomes were reported, most respondents fell in the middle to upper income brackets.


Survey Results: Major Takeaways

Digital Divide

93.8% of the respondents reported having access to a broadband connection. The eight respondents that do not have access to a broadband connection, all reported using 3G or 4G services.

Nearly all respondents reported having access to 3G and 4G services; however the amount that respondents spent on these services varied widely, as shown in the graph below:

Despite the reported distribution of access to broadband connections and 3G/4G services, a large majority of the respondents reported difficulties and obstacles in connectivity.

55.7% of the respondents reported experiencing weak or no broadband connection once a week. 15.6% of the respondents reported experiencing weak connections once a month, while the rest experienced these not very often or not at all.

54% of respondents felt that a lack of internet infrastructure in their area impacted their ability to participate in class or at work negatively during Covid-19; of these 45.2% of the respondents reported inconsistent connectivity as the main reason.

59.8% of the respondents felt that internet speed, in particular, negatively affected their experience. Of these, 34% felt that the internet speed had actually decreased in their area in the previous one month at the time of the survey.

Nearly 80% of the respondents agreed that the internet should be a public utility during a crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic. 9.4% of the participants argued that while it should be subsidized, it shouldn’t be free.

While by number, the majority (38.9%) of respondents reported that issues faced in accessibility, connectivity and quality did not negatively impact their access to job opportunities or education, it is important to note that nearly all respondents from outside of Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Faisalabad felt that it did. This points to a geographic disparity in access, connectivity and digitisation. Due to the over representation of respondents from more urbanised and digitalised areas of the country, the results of the survey are somewhat skewed.

A Dawn article published in June, 2021 describes the gendered disparities in access to digital technologies: there is a 38 percent gender gap in mobile phone ownership (the highest in South Asia) and a 49 percent gender gap in internet usage. Our study however did not reflect the same disparities, with respondents of all genders self-reporting similar access to technologies, ownership of gadgets, internet usage, and privacy too. This difference owes itself largely to the demographic, especially class, particularities of this study’s respondents.

Nearly 73% of the respondents started working from home completely or at least partially after the advent of the pandemic, the following transformations were also reported in terms of increasing technological devices and internet usage. While this points towards an increasing digitisation of Pakistan, as more and more online services are utilised for what would previously be performed through non-tech means, much of the spread of digital technology - especially those indicated here - are limited to urban areas. For example: Airlift Express, one of Pakistan’s online delivery startups, delivers its services in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. This certainly reflects the demand patterns across the country, but is also reflective of already present geographical cleavages in digitising basic services.


The options for the above two questions were:
Purchase groceries
Pay utility bills
Do banking transactions
Read books
Connect with family and friends
Work
Attend classes

The variance between the increasing usage of online services compared to the disparity in the provision of these services is reflected tremendously in the increasing demand for quality internet in all areas that were essentially not urbanised cities. Particularly, earlier in the year, students, activists and residents demanded better internet connectivity for Gilgit Baltistan, especially with an influx of students looking to attend online classes after returning due to the pandemic. In an article published in The Diplomat, student activists demanded better internet services in the Balochistan province too, a demand that was met with repression and arrests on the part of the authorities.

Privacy

With the advent of the pandemic, governments globally introduced a range of new policies to control and inhibit the spread of the virus within local populations. Among these were various surveillance methodologies employed to trace contacts of infected individuals as well as control compliance with other policies. Various organisations and human rights monitors have protested against the unregulated use of these extraordinary measures and strategies under the banner of public health measures, arguing that these infringe upon civil rights, especially the right to privacy, and by extension democracy itself. For example, Privacy International argued: “Unprecedented levels of surveillance, data exploitation, and misinformation are being tested across the world.”

In particular, a report dated June 2020 highlights the vulnerabilities of Pakistan’s tracking system executed through a COVID app, it was noted that “the app uses hard-coded credentials, which it sends insecurely, to communicate with the government server, and it downloads the exact coordinates of infected people in order to provide a map of their locations. A second independent test found that the app uses an unencrypted database that can be accessed by either an attacker with physical access to the device or a malicious app with root access.”

The response to these mechanisms was varied in the survey results. 43% of the respondents expressed similar concerns over the government’s increased use of tracking and data collection mechanisms to record patients' health, travel and contact histories, with around 35% arguing that they wanted to see more transparency with the data collection processes. 23.4% of the respondents were comfortable with their data being collected but with the condition of some safeguards being present. Lastly, 31.3% agreed that this data collection was essential and were comfortable with it in its current form.

However, a large majority of respondents (nearly 55%) were not comfortable downloading a contact-tracing application on their phone, compared to the 34% who were. The rest were indifferent. This ratio increased when we asked if they would be comfortable if they government mandated said applications - 64% responded that they wouldn’t, while only 27% responded affirmatively.

All that said, our respondents did report having access to and knowledge of digital safety and security - for example, as shown in the graph below, a significant majority reported using two factor authentication. Similarly, upto 93% reported that some or all of their devices were password protected.

Lack of information, Misinformation and Fake News

According to a report published by the Digital Rights Monitor, “even as the internet use soared across the country during the pandemic, people in the newly merged districts continued to rely on printed brochures and radio to get information about the virus. The delayed information about COVID-19 could have been fatal for those who would have contracted it, and lack of information about it would have promoted its spread as well. Not only were people barred from accessing crucial life-saving information, now their routine access to healthcare was also restricted.”

Furthermore, the ‘Manual on Fake News during COVID-19’ written by Digital Rights Foundation argued that fake news, especially on Whatsapp, was at an all time high since March 2020. The kinds of misinformation included: fake cures to mitigate the spread of the virus and manage illness, misinformation about the vaccine and it’s efficiency and so on.

In a study published in 2020 about Covid-19 related Whatsapp messages, Javed et al. used the following illustration to categorize misinformation about the pandemic. Fake news formed the largest of these, including wrongly identifying people diagnosed positive, the amount of deaths globally, hysteria-inducing news about surveillance systems and data collection.

Fig 1.1: Graph from Javed et al.: %age of WhatsApp texts about Covid-19 related misinformation

 

As the graph below shows, a large majority of respondents to DRF’s survey felt that fake news has increased during the pandemic.

Furthermore, a large number of respondents felt that Whatsapp contained the most misinformation amongst major social media platforms. 95% of respondents reported that they verify information before sharing it further on social media, especially Whatsapp.

According to these initial survey results, Covid-19 related digital transformations, privacy and state facilitated data collection and the effects of varied access to digital technologies is differently perceived across respondents. While they provide baseline data for further study and research, some important caveats to digital research remain, especially driven by huge disparities in access to the internet and other related devices. Further research may relate to studying disparities relating to gender, income level and so on.

Bibliography:

 

 

June 30, 2021 - Comments Off on Call for Papers and Submissions: Perspectives on Gendered Disinformation

Call for Papers and Submissions: Perspectives on Gendered Disinformation

As disinformation emerges as a part of the information ecosystem online, there isn’t enough recognition of gendered forms that this information takes and the harmful impact that it has on gendered and marginalized bodies.

Gendered disinformation is emerging as a form of disinformation that has a direct impact on movements, gender politics online and the safety of activists.[1] Gendered disinformation has been defined, “the spread of deceptive or inaccurate information and images against women political leaders, journalists and female public figures.”[2] Building on this definition, disinformation is also directed towards feminist and women’s rights movements, not just individuals, in an effort to “draw on misogyny and distrust of women in politics, frequently referring to their sexuality”[3] and gender.

Furthermore, disinformation is employed as a tool for silencing its targets, which has a disproportionate impact on women and gender minorities given their overall vulnerability online and lesser participation in public and online spaces. The implications for political and democratic participation are immense given the wide gender gaps that already persist in many countries. Often the line between disinformation, hate speech and online harassment is blurred when it comes to targets belonging to marginalised communities, including women.

Targeted disinformation campaigns are often launched against individual activists and movements in order to discredit them and undermine their work. These campaigns stymie the important work they seek to do and perpetuate false information in the larger public narrative. Digital Rights Foundation wishes to document and further develop this emerging area of research and policy-based inquiries through a report on gendered disinformation. This call is for contributions for Chapters in the report from perspectives that are different from our own and those often placed at the center of research on the subject. We invite pitches for submissions for our report. Anyone who has access to a Pakistani bank account is welcome to apply.

Questions and Areas of interest:

What is gendered disinformation: How can gendered disinformation be defined? What category does it come under? What are the different ways in which it manifests itself? Why and how does this come to be used as a tool?

Why is this an important issue: How and does varying levels of digital literacy play a role? What are the ways in which gendered disinformation can harm its targets and what are the far-reaching effects? Why and how do some actors use this as a tool e.g. to remain in power or to divert attention?

Legislative measures: How can legislative measures be used to tackle gendered disinformation? What examples are already present, and to what extent are they successful? What is the scope for laws to be misused? How does legislation affect the actions taken by platforms? What loopholes have been used to get away with being held accountable in the past, and what loopholes might be used? How can these loopholes be countered without trampling on peoples’ freedoms?

Who is targeted: Around the world, which actors are targeted? Why are they considered as targets? What makes them vulnerable? What are the varying degrees of harm that it can cause depending on which part of the world the disinformation campaign is based?

How to tackle gendered disinformation: How can awareness and education campaigns be used to reduce the harm that targeted disinformation campaigns can have? What actions platforms can take and why the responsibility falls on them, if at all? What can civil society do more and what assistance can be provided to them?

The final papers should be between 3000-4000 words, but in the interest of making information more accessible to a wider audience, authors can express an interest in supplementing their research in different formats, such as podcasts, graphics, interactive visuals, even games.

Selected authors will be given an honorarium of USD 1250.

Important Dates:

Date to submit abstract: 12 July 2021

Date to submit 1st Draft: 6 September 2021

Date to submit 2nd Draft: 1 October 2021

Request information: hyra@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

[1] Maria Giovanna Sessa, “Misogyny and Misinformation: An Analysis of Gendered Disinformation Tactics during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” Disinfo Lab, December 4, 2020, https://www.disinfo.eu/publications/misogyny-and-misinformation:-an-analysis-of-gendered-disinformation-tactics-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/.
[2] Lucina Di Meco, Online Threats to Women’s Political Participation and The Need for a Multi-Stakeholder, Cohesive Approach to Address Them,” UN Women: Expert Group Meeting, Sixty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 65), September, 2020, EGM/CSW/2021/EP8, https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/65/egm/di%20meco_online%20threats_ep8_egmcsw65.pdf?la=en&vs=1511
[3] Lucina Di Meco, “Why disinformation targeting women undermines dmeocratic institutions,” International Forum for Democratic Studies, May 1, 2020, https://www.power3point0.org/2020/05/01/why-disinformation-targeting-women-undermines-democratic-institutions/.
[4] Maya Oppenheim, “General election: Women MPs standing down over ‘horrific abuse’, campaigners warn,” Independent, October 31, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/general-election-woman-mps-step-down-abuse-harassment-a9179906.html. Maggie Astor, “For Female Candidates, Harassment and Threats Come Every Day,” The New York Times, August 24, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/24/us/politics/women-harassment-elections.html.

 

June 25, 2021 - Comments Off on May 2021 Newsletter: DRF Commemorates World Press Freedom Day 2021

May 2021 Newsletter: DRF Commemorates World Press Freedom Day 2021

Online Campaigns and Initiatives:


DRF Addresses the impact on COVID-19 on journalists for World Press Freedom Day 2021:

For the #WorldPressFreedomDay, DRF reflected on the struggles of the past year faced by journalists, including the rise in disinformation and the sudden change in how newsrooms are operated across the country, in addition to the risks to health posed by a global pandemic.


First 2021 Edition of the Digital 50.50 Feminist E-Magazine celebrates Women’s History Month:

The Digital Rights Foundation’s Digital 50.50 Feminist E-Magazine’s first edition for 2021 highlighted women’s history month, and the role of prominent women in Pakistan, in enacting major social change, and sheds light on the discrimination faced by these women that has silenced their acheivements. The magazine can be accessed here.

DRF is expanding the Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR)

The network of women journalists for digital rights (@NWJDR) is looking for women journalists and reporters from across Pakistan, particularly individuals working with Urdu media platforms. The network aims to create a safe space and support network for women journalists. The network also connects its members to DRF's expert digital safety staff in case of compromises on their devices or other digital safety issues that they may face. Our Cyber Harassment Helpline is also available as a resource in case someone faces online harassment.

Click here to join theNWJDR network:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeEWC2vrH1D9Xni1dTyLSh800qILjAc0FX5z65WKzzYE3JhiA/viewform

DRF highlighted the Digital Apartheid on social media

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatsapp Account Update


Never forget to log out of your WhatsApp account after using it on your laptop or any other device. The new WhatsApp update will keep your WhatsApp account logged on several devices despite being active on your phone. Some of the most common complaints we get on our Helpline have to do with WhatsApp hacks. Use the three steps mentioned above to protect yourself.

Policy Initiatives:


DRF conducts study on “Cyber Harassment Against Female Journalists”:

The Digital Rights Foundation conducted a study on “Cyber Harassment Against Female Journalists”, in which they interviewed 60 journalists, and revealed that 55% of the respondents have been subjected to online abuse while 91% believe that online abuse is gendered. More importantly, 93% of the respondents believed that the state had failed to protect female journalists in online spaces.

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline releases statistics for April 2021:

For the month of April, the Cyber Harassment Helpline received a total of 455 complaints (a 27% increase), in which 327 were women, 111 were men, 13 were minors and two transgender individuals. These numbers are a stark reminder that we must strive together to make the internet a safer space for everyone.

Media Coverage:


DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline featured in an article by BBC World News:

In an interview with BBC World News, our Cyber Harassment Helpline Manager, Jannat Fazal, talks about the digital gender divide in Pakistan and the kind of services being offered to vulnerable women at our Helpline. This article highlights how the pandemic affected women's online experiences the world over. It highlights how this is truly a global issue, one that we need to fight together. You can read the article here.

Nighat Dad featured by Women of the World:

Women of the  World listed Nighat Dad, Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation, as one of the most prominent women in the country, highlighting her role in setting a precedent for digital security and privacy in Pakistan.

Link to article: https://artsandculture.google.com/story/yQWRVh7d36w05w

Nighat Dad was featured in IFEX’s Faces of Free expression

DRF’s executive director Nighat Dad was featured in the faces of free expression spotlight in which her experience of setting up Digital Rights Foundation and her achievements and accomplishments as an human rights defender were celebrated.

Link: https://www.ifep.io/faces

DRF’s Nighat Dad featured as the ‘Top 10 Tech Influencers in Pakistan’

DRF’s Nighat Dad has been featured as the ‘Top 10 Tech Influencers in Pakistan’. Her achievements have been highlighted among other pioneering tech influencers in the country.

Link to article: https://localwriter.pk/top-tech-influencers-of-pakistan/

Events and Sessions:


Panel Discussion on ‘The State of Journalism in Pakistan’:

Marking the World Press Freedom Day 2021 on the 3rd of May, the Digital Rights Foundation held a panel discussion on the ‘State of Journalism in Pakistan’. The discussion was moderated by Nighat Dad, with a diverse group of panelists, discussing the changes brought on by the global pandemic, and how information is a public good, especially in times of COVID 19.

Link to webinar: https://fb.watch/6hlWT9lXJj/


DRF featured in Privacy International’s Stockholm Internet Forum 2021:

At the annual Stockholm Internet Forum (2021), the Digital Rights Foundation was featured in a comprehensive panel discussion on “Global Lessons and Challenges to Advocate for Data Protection”. More details can be found here.


Nighat Dad featured in panel discussion for Beaconhouse’s School of Tomorrow Conference:

Nighat Dad, Executive Director of the Digital Rights Foundation, was featured in the Beaconhouse group’s School of Tomorrow (SOT) Virtual Conference, participating in a panel discussion on “Censorship, Human Endurance and Crossfires”. The conference can be accessed here.


Nighat Dad featured in panel discussion for Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum

In a panel discussion for the Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum (RBHR) for 2021, Nighat Dad joined esteemed panelists to discuss “Business and Human Rights in the Digital Era”, which highlighted the most prevalent issues in South Asia and reiterated the need for reform in digital spaces.

DRF’s session with LGS Phase 5 children

DRF conducted a session with 5th Graders for LGS Phase 5 on the 6th of May. These students were conducting a project on advocacy around data protection for their PYP project and members of our team (Zainab Durrani as well as ED Nighat Dad) walked them through the data protection landscape in Pakistan. The session also led to an online data protection advocacy campaign where the content was created by the students, highlighting why #ProtectMyData is the need of the hour.

COVID-19 Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline:

Cyber harassment helpline is now available 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm through its toll free number and social media platforms. You can contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us at helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday). The helpline now also provides services to journalists like legal assistance and representation, counselling and digital safety and assistance.


Ab Aur Nahin:

In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse. www.abaurnahin.pk

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. www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

 

 

June 4, 2021 - Comments Off on Pakistan Media Development Authority Ordinance, 2021 – Position Paper

Pakistan Media Development Authority Ordinance, 2021 – Position Paper

Position Paper by Digital Rights Foundation

June 4, 2021

These comments are with reference to the concept paper circulated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (“MOIB”) titled “Concept Paper for Establishment of Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA)” dated May 19, 2021, and the “Pakistan Media Authority Ordinance, 2021” (the “Ordinance”) dated May 7, 2021.

The proposed Ordinance is a blatant attempt to exercise excessive control over the media in order to “manage” freedom of expression through licensing of content producers, stamp out dissent through expansive and vague terms and conditions, and imposing onerous restrictions and punishments through excessive fines and sentences. Under the garb of ensuring efficiency and eliminating red tape, the government seeks to centralise controls over the media. However, these efforts are completely misguided and utterly unenforceable in the era of digital media, where content production and news making is decentralized. Additionally, imposing a licensing regime for journalists amounts to censorship and violation of settled international norms.

Law by Ordinance is an Extraordinary Measure

Digital Rights Foundation (“DRF”) opposes the Ordinance at a fundamental level as centralisation of regulatory authority is a draconian move and runs afoul to the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 (the “Constitution”) particularly freedom of expression (Article 19) and right to information (Article 19A). At the onset, the method followed by the state to pass the law via ordinance, as opposed to an Act of Parliament, bypasses democratic processes and checks and balances in place. The power of the President, enshrined under Article 89 of the Constitution, is an extraordinary one to be exercised only when the Senate or National Assembly are not in session and it is necessary to take immediate action. Nothing in the text of the Ordinance and accompanying concept paper identifies the need for immediate action to the clear structural and long-term issue of media regulation. We fail to understand what emergency exists with regards to the media that would necessitate such extraordinary actions. This short-cut method of passing legislation without input from the opposition is fundamentally undemocratic and has become the modus operandi of the ruling government. Furthermore, given that Ordinances expire after a period of 120 days, this Ordinance is a stop-gap effort, at best, and a way to pass legislation unilaterally at its worst. Additionally, the Ordinances proposes sections that allow the Federal Government to issue directives (S. 5)[1], engage in excessive delegation to determine speech rights relating to constitutional rights through the latter creation of a ‘Code of Conduct’,[2] and grant wide powers to make Rules.[3] The Authority also has been given a carte blanche to  grant exemptions from any provisions of this Ordinance where it deems there are sufficient grounds in the name of ‘public interest’.[4]

Curtails Freedom of Expression

Moreover, the Ordinance fails to fulfil its own objectives as stated in the preamble. The lofty objectives of ensuring the “Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression” cannot be guaranteed through overly broad legislation that sets terms and conditions for license holders of electronic, digital and print media. These terms

 S. 5: “Power of the Federal Government to issue directives. – The Federal Government may, as and when it considers necessary, issue directives to the Authority on matters of policy, and such directives shall be binding on the Authority, and if a question arises whether any matter is a matter of policy or not, the decision of the Federal Government shall be final”
S. 20: “Licenses, Registration Certificates, declaration and NOC for media services and films: (5) The Authority shall devise a Code of Conduct for programmes and advertisements for compliance by the licensees or registration certificate.”
S. 48: “Power to make rules. - (1) The Authority may, with the approval of the division concerned, by notification in the official Gazette, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Ordinance.”
S. 39: “Power to grant exemptions.- The Authority may grant exemptions from any provisions of this Ordinance, where the Authority is of the view that such exemption serves the public interest and the exemptions so granted shall be supported by recording the reasons for granting such exemptions in writing provided that the grant of exemptions shall be based on guidelines and criteria identified in the regulations and that such exemptions shall be made in conformity with the principles of equality and equity as enshrined in the Constitution.”

contain vague criteria such as the “preservation of the sovereignty, security and integrity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan[1], “preservation of the national, cultural, social and religious values[2] and restrains on material relating to “violence, terrorism, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, sectarianism, extremism, militancy, hatred, pornography, obscenity, vulgarity or other material offensive to commonly accepted standards of decency[3] and “prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan.[4] While Article 19 of the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions as per law on the freedom of expression, it is a well-settled principle of law that restrains on fundamental rights need to be narrowly-tailored and carefully defined so as not to lend itself to undue censorship by those in power.[5] Furthermore, there are restrains on any of the licensee from defaming or bringing “into ridicule the Head of State, or members of the armed forces, or legislative or judicial organs of the state,”[6] which will have the direct effect of styming democratic discourse and public debate given that public figures and institutions are supposed to withstand a higher degree of scrutiny, criticism and even defamation than the average citizen.[7]

 S. 21: “Terms and conditions of license or registration certificate or declaration or NOC. - (a) Conditions requiring the licensee registration certificate or declaration or NOC to ensure preservation of the sovereignty, security and integrity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.
S. 21(b): “Conditions to ensure preservation of the national, cultural, social and religious values and the principles of public policy as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.
S. 21(c): “Conditions to ensure that all programmes and advertisements do not contain or encourage violence, terrorism, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, sectarianism, extremism, militancy, hatred, pornography, obscenity, vulgarity or other material offensive to commonly accepted standards of decency.”
S. 21(l): “Conditions requiring the licensee to ensure that no anchor person, moderator or host propagates any opinion or acts in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan.”
UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 34, Article 19: Freedoms of opinion and expression, 12 September 2011, CCPR/C/GC/34. [General Comment No. 34]. Accessed June 4, 2021: https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf.
Para 21: “However, when a State party imposes restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, these may not put in jeopardy the right itself.”
Para 25: “For the purposes of paragraph 3, a norm, to be characterized as a “law”, must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable an individual to regulate his or her conduct accordingly and it must be made accessible to the public. A law may not confer unfettered discretion for the restriction of freedom of expression on those charged with its execution.”
S. 21(n): “Conditions requiring the licensee to not broadcast, distribute or make available online anything which defames or brings into ridicule the Head of State, or members of the armed forces, or legislative or judicial organs of the state.”
General Comment No. 34, para. 38: “concerning the content of political discourse, the Committee has observed that in circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high. Thus, the mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify

Economic fallout on Digital Media

A fundamental flaw in this Ordinance is that it is attempting to regulate all forms of media in the same manner. Given the complex and constantly evolving nature of the internet, it is impossible to regulate online platforms through frameworks that have been designed for other (offline) mediums. For instance, amateur news gatherers or bloggers cannot be treated and regulated in the same manner as big news media companies. This point was also noted in the Joint Declaration (2011) of special international mandates for freedom of expression that: “Approaches to regulation developed for other means of communication - such as telephony or broadcasting-cannot simply be transferred to the Internet but, rather, need to be specifically designed for it”.

The economic impact of this legislation will be nearly fatal, disproportionately affecting digital media outlets and content producers who do not have the resources to ensure registration and pay fees. If the government is serious about its objective of creating “a robust environment for the development of all forms of media, having competition, plurality of voices, diversity of opinions,” then this approach is wholly unsuited for the stated aim. A licensing regime that allows for wholesale restrictions on a channel, publication, website or account as opposed to particular content is unduly restrictive.[1] Furthermore, the Ordinance fundamentally misunderstands how digital media works, the broad definitions of terms such as ‘Broadcaster’ (s. 2(f)),[2] ‘Media’ (s. 2(ta))[3], and ‘Digital Media’ (s. 2(ua))[4] will essentially mean any internet user who produces content relating to “news & current affairs, entertainments, sports, regional language, education, agriculture, health, specialized subject, kids, travel

the imposition of penalties, albeit public figures may also benefit from the provisions of the Covenant. Moreover, all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.”
General Comment No. 34, para. 39: “It is incompatible with article 19 to refuse to permit the publication of newspapers and other print media other than in the specific circumstances of the application of paragraph 3. Such circumstances may never include a ban on a particular publication unless specific content, that is not severable, can be legitimately prohibited under paragraph 3.”
“Broadcaster” means a person engaged in broadcast media and digital media.
“Media” means broadcast, print, digital communication channel through which information, entertainment, education or promotional messages are disseminated and includes the electronic, print and digital media.
“Digital media” means any information or content that is broadcast including text, audio, video, graphics, web TV, over the top TV and other such content made available for viewing over the internet.

& tourism, science and technology etc” will be required to acquire “licenses, registration certificates, declaration and No Objection Certificates.” This ‘prior restraint’ model of speech is unduly restrictive and imposes unnecessary barriers to free speech.

As aforementioned, there seems to be a comprehension problem about how digital markets work which is why traditional competitive practices cannot apply to them. The anachronistic competition laws that are designed for local markets cannot be extended to online platforms with a global outreach. Moreover, some online platforms are offering free services to their users, hence, the standard competition criterion of excessive pricing will not be applicable to them.

Prior Restraint Licensing Model

Additionally, the proposed licensing regime is subject to a great degree of uncertainty as the PMDA has the discretionary powers to alter the terms and conditions of the license in the public interest.[1] Licensing of journalists is completely different from licensing media houses, the licensing scheme that the Ordinance envisions would be “susceptible [to] abuse and the power to distribute licences can become a political tool. While the purpose of licensing schemes is ostensibly to ensure that the task of informing the public is reserved for competent persons of high moral integrity, the Inter-American

 S. 19: “Categories of licenses, registration certificates, declaration and No Objection Certificates. - (1) The Authority shall issue licenses for electronic, print and digital media in the following categories, namely: -
(i) National scale;
(ii) Provincial and regional;
(iii) District and Tehsil level;
(iv) Local Area and Community based;
(iv) Specific and specialized subjects; 
(v) International scale targeting countries abroad;
(vi) Other categories as the Authority may prescribe from time to time. 
(2) The Authority may further sub-categorize the categories specified in sub-section (1) as it may deem fit, such as news & current affairs, entertainments, sports, regional language, education, agriculture, health, specialized subject, kids, travel & tourism, science and technology etc.”
Alain Strowel & Prof. Wouter Vergote,Digital Platforms: To Regulate or Not To Regulate? Message to Regulators: Fix the Economics First, Then Focus on the Right Regulation <https://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/image/document/2016-7/uclouvain_et_universit_saint_louis_14044.pdf>
Id.
S. 34(2): “The Authority may vary any of the terms and conditions of the license or registration certificate, declaration and NOC where such variation is in the public interest.”

Court of Human Rights rejected this argument, noting that other, less restrictive means were available for enhancing the professionalism of journalists.”

Furthermore the licensing regime is unduly discriminatory and discretionary. The Authority has a wide berth in terms of deciding licensing fee and validity period of the license. The criteria for persons and entities “not be granted license or registration certificate” includes non-citizens, foreign companies, anyone “funded or sponsored by a foreign government or organization including any foreign non-governmental organization.” This exclusion criterion is in equal parts unsustainable and contradictory. The definition of “illegal operation” in the Ordinance includes any “broadcast, webcast or transmission or operation or exhibition, publishing or printing or distribution of films, newspapers, satellite TV channel, terrestrial TV channels, Over the Top TV channels or a newspaper, or provision of access to, programmes or advertisements or content” without a valid license or registration certificate or declaration or NOC. This essentially means that foreignmfunded or incorporated companies cannot stream content inside Pakistan as they are barred from even obtaining a license. The restriction is even more confusing as the Authority itself can obtain foreign funds, but license holders cannot. The stated objective of this Ordinance “to establish

 “BRIEFING NOTES SERIES: Freedom of Expression,” Centre for Law and Democracy, International Media Support (IMS), July, 2014, https://www.mediasupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/foe-briefingnotes-ims-cld.pdf. 
S. 25: “License/ registration certificate and declaration, NOC application, issuance, refusal and validity. - (4) A license or registration certificate, declaration and NOC for any media service shall be valid for a period of five, ten or fifteen years subject to payment of the annual fee and such other fees as prescribed from time to time and subject to compliance with the provisions of this Ordinance, rules or regulations and terms and conditions of license/ registration certificate.”
S. 26: “Certain persons not be granted license or registration certificate. - (1) A license or registration certificate, declaration and NOC for print, digital media or electronic media service and films shall not be granted to—
(a) a person who is not a citizen of Pakistan or resident in Pakistan;
(b) a foreign company organized under the laws of any foreign government; 
(c) a company the majority of whose shares are owned or controlled by foreign nationals or companies whose management or control is vested in foreign nationals or companies; or
(d) any person funded or sponsored by a foreign government or organization including any foreign non-governmental organization.”
S. 2(sc): “Illegal operation” means broadcast, webcast or transmission or operation or exhibition , publishing or printing or distribution of films, newspapers, satellite TV channel, terrestrial TV channels, Over the Top TV channels or a newspaper, or provision of access to, programmes or advertisements or content on any medium including web without having a valid license or registration certificate or declaration or NOC from the Authority.”
S. 15(2): “The Fund shall consist of. - (iv) foreign aid obtained with approval of and on such terms and conditions as may be approved by the Federal Government.”

Pakistan as a major global center for multimedia information and content services” is a non-starter if such provisions remain.

Lack of Independence of the Regulator

Democracies demand that regulators must be independent and free from commercial or political influence so as to ensure that it acts objectively, impartially, and consistently, without conflict of interest, bias or undue influence. However, the Authority is not sufficiently independent from the Federal Government. The members will not only be appointed by the President of Pakistan (S. 6(1)) but will also be removed by the President or Federal Government (s.7(2)) . The members of Authority will rely on the Federal Government for a proportion of its funds (S. 15) which fails to satisfy the legislation’s own aim of creating an “independent, efficient, effective and transparent” Authority. Moreover, the members are also bound to comply with any directives issued by the Federal Government on “matters of policy”, however, whether something constitutes a ‘matter of policy’ cannot be questioned in any court.

Furthermore, the Ordinance creates a confusing structure consisting of the ‘Media Complaints Council’, an ‘Advisory Commission’, and ‘Media Tribunal’. The rationale behind the Advisory Commission, for instance, is unclear in the Ordinance. It is worth noting that the Chairperson and members of the Media Tribunal who will be deciding appeals against orders and decisions of the Authority, will be shortlisted by an Advisory Commission (which includes Chairman of the Authority) (s.27(3)) .

 S. 6: “Members of Authority. - (1) The Authority shall consist of a Chairman and eleven (11) members to be appointed by the President of Pakistan on the advice of the Federal Government.”
S. 7(2): “The Chairman or a member may, by writing under his hand, resign from his office. The President or the Federal Government may remove the Chairman or a member from his office if he is found unable to perform the functions of his office due to mental or physical disability or to have committed misconduct.
S. 15. “Fund. - (2) The Fund shall consist of. - (i) Seed money by the Federal Government; [...] (iii) loans obtained with the special or general sanction of the Federal Government;”
S. 27(3 a) Advisory Commission: “It will be composed of four members from the government, four members from stakeholders and chairman of the authority with an advisory role to shortlist panels for members, chairman of Media Complaints Councils as well as Chairman and members of the Media Tribunal as prescribed by the rules.”
S. 27(3): “Advisory Commission: It will be composed of four members from the government, four members from stakeholders and chairman of the authority with an advisory role to shortlist panels for members, chairman of Media Complaints Councils as well as Chairman and members of the Media Tribunal as prescribed by the rules.”

Hence, it is becoming clear that the Government has no interest in ensuring that the regulator and quasi-judicial forums established under this Ordinance are independent.

Arbitrary Powers

Lastly, the punitive powers of the Authority are extensive, overly restrictive and arbitrary. Most egregiously, the Authority has the power to prohibit any person or organization from publishing content “without issuing show cause notice and affording opportunity of hearing”, which violates basic principles of due process and natural justice which are enshrined in the Constitution. The Authority also amasses extraordinary powers to inspect the premises of license holders without any prior notice, a power that would particularly violate the right of privacy for digital content creators who often operate out of their homes and private residence. Furthermore, there is a bar on appealing decisions taken by the various bodies under the Ordinance except for at the Supreme Court. By foreclosing other appellate forums, particularly at the High Court level, it is clear that the Ordinance seeks to consolidate powers in the hands of the government rather than empower media producers. The Ordinance also prescribes punitive measures for violations. It is quite concerning that these penalties such as heavy fines and even imprisonment can be meted out for

 S. 28: “Prohibition of print, electronic or digital media service and films operation. - The Authority shall by order in writing, giving reasons thereof without issuing show cause notice and affording opportunity of hearing, prohibit any person, print media, electronic media or digital media service operator or licensee or platform for a period as may be prescribed from – 
(a) Printing, Broadcasting, Webcasting, re-broadcasting, distributing or making available online any programme, advertisement or content if it is of the opinion that such particular programme, advertisement or content is against the ideology of Pakistan or is likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility or endangers national security or is pornographic, obscene or vulgar or is offensive to the commonly accepted standards of decency, this shall also apply to foreign broadcast having landing rights of the Authority or any digital media service operating from abroad but with Pakistan as target market and operating under a license of the Authority; or
(b) engaging in any practice or act which amounts to abuse of media power by way of harming the legitimate interests of another licensee or willfully causing damage to any other person.”
S. 31: “Issue of enforcement orders, imposition of penalties, inspections of any media licensee- (2) The premises of any media licensee or registered entity, declaration and NOC shall, at all reasonable times, be open to inspection by the Authority or any officer under sub-section (1) and the licensee shall provide such officer with every assistance and facility in performing his duties.”
S. 37: “Jurisdiction of courts barred-. Save as otherwise provided by this Ordinance, only Supreme Court of Pakistan shall have jurisdiction to question the legality of anything done or decision or any action taken under the ordinance.”

speech acts.[1] Even more worryingly, these offences, made out under the Ordinance will be cognizable and compoundable.[2]

[1] S. 40: “Offences and penalties. - (1) Any licensee and registered entity, declaration and NOC holder or person who violates or abets the violation of any of the provision of this Ordinance shall be guilty of offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend up to two  twenty five million rupees or with both.

(2).  Where any licensee and registered entity, declaration NOC holder or person who repeats the violation or abetment, such person shall be guilty of offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with a fine which may extend to TWO Twenty-five million rupees or with both.

(3) Where the violation, or abetment of the violation of any provision of this Ordinance is made by a person who does not hold a license, or registration certificate, declaration and NOC such violation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine upto two twenty-five Million, or with both, in addition to the confiscation of the equipment used in the commission of the act.

(4) Whosoever damages, removes, tampers with or commits theft of any equipment of a media station, printing press or system, cinema houses  licensed by the Authority, including transmitting, broadcasting, uplinking apparatus, receivers, boosters, converters, distributors, antennae, wires, decoders, set-top boxes or multiplexers, servers etc. shall be guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine upto two twenty five million , or both.” [2] S. 43: “Offences to be cognizable and compoundable. - The offences under section 41 shall be cognizable and compoundable.”

Conclusion

While issues relating to the media, freedom of speech and emerging media are thorny and riddled with determinations of the wider public good and the extent of the government’s power to regulate speech. There is no easy answer to these questions. However the unprecedented consolidation and centralisation powers as envisioned under this Ordinance will fundamentally shift the balance of power between the state and media. The passage of this Ordinance will spell disaster for the media in Pakistan, which is already operating within precarious shrinking spaces and in the context of attacks on journalists. Pakistan was ranked 145 in in the World Press Freedom Index by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Under such oppressive circumstances, this Ordinance will be a death knell for the media. The onus is on the government to show us they are acting in good faith by discarding the proposal to introduce a singular regulatory authority and redirecting its efforts to

 S. 40: “Offences and penalties. - (1) Any licensee and registered entity, declaration and NOC holder or person who violates or abets the violation of any of the provision of this Ordinance shall be guilty of offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend up to two twenty five million rupees or with both.
(2). Where any licensee and registered entity, declaration NOC holder or person who repeats the violation or abetment, such person shall be guilty of offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with a fine which may extend to TWO Twenty-five million rupees or with both.
(3) Where the violation, or abetment of the violation of any provision of this Ordinance is made by a person who does not hold a license, or registration certificate, declaration and NOC such violation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine upto two twenty-five Million, or with both, in addition to the confiscation of the equipment used in the commission of the act.
(4) Whosoever damages, removes, tampers with or commits theft of any equipment of a media station, printing press or system, cinema houses licensed by the Authority, including transmitting, broadcasting, uplinking apparatus, receivers, boosters, converters, distributors, antennae, wires, decoders, set-top boxes or multiplexers, servers etc. shall be guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine upto two twenty five million , or both.”
S. 43: “Offences to be cognizable and compoundable. - The offences under section 41 shall be cognizable and compoundable.”
“61 Journalists Killed in Pakistan,” Committee to Protect Journalists, https://cpj.org/data/killed/asia/pakistan/?status=Killed&motiveConfirmed%5B%5D=Confirmed&type%5B%5D=Journalist&cc_fips%5B%5D=PK&start_year=1992&end_year=2021&group_by=location. “Pakistan: Escalating Attacks on Journalists,” Human Rights Watch, June 3, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/03/pakistan-escalating-attacks-journalists. 
“Pakistan: Under the military establishment’s thumb,” 2020 World Press Freedom Index: RSF, https://rsf.org/en/pakistan.

create an enabling environment for the media by investing in infrastructure, media literacy programs and supporting economic models to make independent media sustainable.

June 4, 2021 - Comments Off on The Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights strongly condemns the petition registered for treason case against Asma Sherzai

The Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights strongly condemns the petition registered for treason case against Asma Sherzai

The Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR) strongly condemns the petition registered in Gujranwala for treason cases against notable Pakistani journalists, Asma Sherazi and Hamid Mir. 

Asma had addressed a rally of the media fraternity protesting a recent attack on  journalist Asad Ali Toor and the suspension of Hamid Mir from GEO News’s Capital Talk. 

In her tweet, Shirazi said truth had a price. “Faced all kinds of threats and pressures numerous times. Musharraf [former military dictator] banned us in 2007, dealt with treason threats and all kinds of pressure tactics”.

NWJDR finds it extremely disturbing to see the space for dissent and providing reliable information to the public rapidly shrink in Pakistan, as journalists as well as human rights defenders are particularly at risk of censorship, intimidation, physical violence, threats and arbitrary detention.

If the authorities are committed to uphold their human rights obligations, NWJDR urges the government to take immediate and decisive steps to investigate the recent spate of attacks on journalists. It also calls upon the government to reject the petition on charges of treason against notable journalists Asma Sherazi and Hamid Mir. 

The Human Rights Ministry has recently introduced the Journalist and Media Professionals Protection Bill in the National Assembly which can go a long way to protect the rights of journalists and the NWJDR urges the Ministry to take steps to immediately look into the matter and dismantle the impunity for crimes against journalists. 

May 21, 2021 - Comments Off on April 2021: DRF Commemorates #GirlsInICT Day

April 2021: DRF Commemorates #GirlsInICT Day

Online Campaigns and Initiatives:


DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline finalist for World Justice Challenge:

The Digital Rights Foundation’s Cyber Harassment Helpline has been shortlisted as a finalist for the World Justice Challenge (organised by the World Justice Project), for its tremendous efforts in recording, documenting and reporting cases of online harassment.

DRF celebrates #GirlsInICT Day:

On the 22nd of April, the Digital Rights Foundation participated in commemorating the #GirlsInICT Day, discussing the gender digital divide, and how it holds back women and girls from interacting and understanding technology.

Policy Initiatives:

DRF Cyber Harassment Helpline releases statistics for March 2021:

The Digital Rights Foundation released the Cyber Harassment Helpline’s key statistics for March 2021, with 356 complaints marking an unprecedented 118% increase in reported complaints.

#AbAurNahin introduces directory of  female lawyers:

#AbAurNahin provides a comprehensive directory of pro-bono lawyers for victims of harassment and abuse on both online or offline spaces, with thirty female lawyers extending their services across Pakistan. For further information, please refer to the following link.

Remembering Our Friends

DRF mourns the loss of IA Rehman Sahab

IA Rehman was a true champion of human rights, and an inspiration for all of us working towards making Pakistan a more equal place. Over the years he widened his understanding of the digital world.  As time progressed he became more aware of modernity and technology and how it affects human rights. He was a strong voice against online censorship and supported digital rights and online freedom of expression. We are all left poorer without him. His life will serve a reminder to always fight the good fight, with strength and integrity. Our condolences and prayers are with his family and those who were close to him. May we continue his legacy by continuing to stand up against injustice.

We are deeply saddened by the sudden demise of our very dear friend and @NWJDR member, Ambreen Zaman Khan. She was an amazing journalist who wrote about key issues, including digital rights and harassment. Ambreen will always be close to our hearts.

Rest in peace, Ambreen

 

 

Media Coverage:

Nighat Dad discusses privacy and cybersecurity on Facebook with Hum News:

In an interview with Hum News, Nighat Dad spoke about how the data leak of 533 million Facebook users’ personal data, and how the leaked data could provide valuable information to cybercriminals. You can watch the interview here.

Nighat Dad discusses gender rights with the Harvard Radcliffe Institute:

In a panel discussion for the Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s Women and Public Policy Program, Nighat Dad discussed how women in Pakistan are constantly surveilled in digital spaces, and that online platforms are inequitable as they include marginalised and disenfranchised groups.

Events and Sessions:

Nighat Dad participates in panel discussion for the Lahore School of Law:

In a panel discussion webinar on “Pakistan’s Personal Data Protection Bill: New Law, New Challenges”, Nighat Dad spoke about the plethora on emerging digital security challenges, and how Pakistan can develop a rigorous legal framework to deal with those emerging issues. You can view the session here.

Seminar on “Digital Security during COVID-19 and Beyond for Human Rights”:

The Digital Rights Foundation held a seminar on “Digital Security during COVID-19 and Beyond for Human Rights”, on the 30th of April. Dr. Ayra Patras moderated the seminar, in which members of both religious and gender minority communities shared their concerns and fears in digital spaces, and were subsequently advised on how they could secure themselves online from intimidation and harassment.

COVID-19 Updates:

Cyber Harassment Helpline:

Cyber harassment helpline is now available 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm through its toll free number and social media platforms.

You can contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us at
helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday).

 

Ab Aur Nahin:

In times of COVID19 domestic abuse is at an all time high where victims do not have anywhere to go. Ab Aur Nahin is a confidential legal and counselor support service specifically designed for victims of harassment and abuse. www.abaurnahin.pk

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. www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk