September 8, 2022 - Comments Off on August 2022 Newsletter: Digital 50.50 Edition on Threats and Harms of Gendered Disinformation

August 2022 Newsletter: Digital 50.50 Edition on Threats and Harms of Gendered Disinformation

Digital Rights Foundation launched its second edition of the feminist e-magazine, Digital 50.50 on the 5th of August 2022. The magazine focused on the threats and harms of gendered disinformation targeted towards women in public life. The magazine had articles, vlogs and illustrations on the said theme. They discussed what gendered disinformation meant as an emerging form of disinformation that relies on sex-based narrratives and like most online gender-based violence is targeted at or about women and girls and other gender minorities. Gendered disinformation impacts women’s access to and participation in public life by silencing and threatening them. Many authoritarian regimes have resorted to targeting women politicians, activists and journalists with organised gendered disinformation campaigns to silence and restrict their participation in public life.

A feature penned by Hira Nadeem talks about the social and emotional consequences of gendered disinformation circulated in the society about transgender individuals. A research-based article by Aiza Nadeem discusses how new and emerging channels and content creators on YouTube manipulate and spin the narrative to sustain viewership using the case study of Aurat March. Khalida Niaz wrote about how women singers and performers have time and again become a target of fake news in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The edition has some amazing illustrations by Bushra Saleem which represent the theme.

Read the edition here.

Online Campaigns

#AtoZofOnlineSafety

DRF did a 21 day campaign on the A to Z of online safety sharing resources and tips on online safety. In the campaign tools that are widely used online were also discussed in detail along with possible privacy concerns associated to them.

Policy Initiatives

Consultation: Challenges and Opportunities for Digital Media in Pakistan

Third consultation held on August 15, 2022

In the month of August DRF conducted a series of three consultations with digital media and non-traditional content creation organizations and individuals in order to map and better understand the digital media landscape in Pakistan. In partnership with UNESCO, these consultations were the first step in developing targeted policy recommendations for the digital media landscape from a policy, legal, gendered and economic lens.

Partnership between DRF and Beti No Misogyny

DRF and Beti No Misogyny have signed an MOU to collaborate together to fight online misogyny, hate & abuse. We hope to create an all inclusive space for everyone through this collaboration.

DRF Condemns the Digital Abuse and Hate Speech against Trans Folks Online

DRF has been monitoring the digital abuse, hate speech & threats that the trans community has been facing in the past few days. As an organization that works on digital safety, we condemn the attacks that prevent the community from feeling safe & engaging in online spaces.

Media Coverage

DRF’s team spoke to Express News on Cyber Harassment

Helpline and legal team spoke to Ms Ayesha Saghir on the prevalent issues related to cyber harassment. The increasing number of cases being reported to the DRF’s Helpline along with the technical and procedural problems encountered by the complainants who register their complaints with the Federal Investigation Agency were discussed within the short interviews. The package was later run on the Express News.

What is Digital 50.50 on FM 100

DRF’s team members conducted a session for the radio station FM 100 on the topic “What is Digital 50 50: Know Your Digital Rights” on August 11, 2022. A recording of the session can be accessed here.

Data Protection and Privacy Radio Program on FM 100

Our Program Manager Zainab Durrani spoke with RJ Haya Khan of FM 100 on the topic of ‘Data Protection and Privacy’ where the two discussed what the current landscape of data privacy looks like in Pakistan today, the overlap of gender and privacy, the gender digital divide in Pakistan and its cultural aspects, the upcoming Personal Data Protection Bill as well as DRF’s latest study on healthcare data privacy that is underway at the moment.

The show was cast live for radio audience and also simultaneously available for viewing on FM 100’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/fm247365/videos/2319933854823963/ )

DRF spoke at Taggeschau

DRF contributed to Taggeschau, a German radio channel report on revenge porn in the context of online dating in Pakistan, the consequences faced by survivors, and what kind of help they can receive.

 
(https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/asien/pakistan-dating-rache-101.html)
NCHR Launches Complaint Cell for Women Journalists Experiencing Harassment

The Friday Times covered the collaboration between DRF, NCHR and CEJ on combatting harassment women journalsits face online.

Read the full article here:

https://www.thefridaytimes.com/2022/08/03/nchr-launches-complaint-cell-for-women-journalists-experiencing-harassment/

 

Events

Nighat Dad at Young Global Leaders (YGL) Summit by World Economic Forum (WEF)

 

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke at Young Global Leaders (YGL) Summit by World Economic Forum in Geneva. She gave a session on digital safety for world leaders along and spoke about disinformations impact in digital age and how it’s impacting democaracies around the world.

Nighat Dad part of the Commonwealth Observer Group in Kenya

DRF’s Nighat Dad was part of the Commonwealth Observer Group in Kenya for the general elections this year. Nighat was part of an advance team  on the ground to observe preparations ahead of the polls and campaigns. The team after the observation will update the main Group about their meetings with stakeholders and their preliminary findings, which will be pivotal in the observation role and report.

Nighat Dad at Wilton Park on a meeting on Gender based Violence

DRF’s ED Nighat Dad joined Wilton Park from 16th till 19th August focusing on evidence base for tackling gender-based harassment and abuse online. A discussion around better standards and definitions around gender based violence took place along with a need for stronger stakeholder collaboration and engagement.

Training for Prosecutors & Legal Aid Lawyer on women's marriage rights and violence against women laws

Legal Team attended a two (02) day training organized by Musawi in collaboration with the Center for Professional Development of Public Prosecutors,“Training for Prosecutors & Legal Aid Lawyer on women's marriage rights and violence against women laws” on the 29th and 30th August 2022. The session initiated with a brief overlook on the concept of gender sensitization leading to an elaborate discussion on women’s protection laws, laws including but not limited to The Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act 202, Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016 and others. Furthermore, the training touched upon the practical touchstones of the women’s marriage rights in Punjab and endorsed increased dialogue, information sharing about nikkahnama (marriage contract), and advocacy for marriage laws.

Online Training on Digital Safety for South Asia

DRF conducted an online training workshop for over 20 participants from the South Asian region on digital safety on August 10, 2022. Given the complex and unique nature of the South Asian context, this training supported by Meedan went a long way in addressing the specific challenges participants faced.

Panel at LACAS A Levels JT Campus

DRF was invited to speak at a panel on ‘Challenging Youth Exclusion in Digital Safety’. The event was arranged by the students themselves, which showcases the interest that the youth of today have in owning their right to digital safety and access and voicing their concerns regarding relevant laws in the country. They asked questions regarding the role of social media platforms, who should be making the rules regarding data privacy, contributing to the discussion on internet access and safety especially post Covid.

DRF Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

The Cyber Harassment Helpline received 258 complaints in August with 169 of these from women and 5 from trans women throughout the country. If you’re encountering a problem online you can reach out to our helpline on 0800-39393, email us at helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk or reach out to us on our social media accounts. We’re available for assistance from 9 am till 5 pm, Monday to Sunday.

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
StopNCII.org

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

Resources for Flood Relief

Climate change has had devastating consequences for the country and with the ongoing flood crisis there has been immense loss to property and life. It’s important to donate in this hour of crisis, however it’s also important to verify who you’re donating to.

The following resources are available for anyone who wants to donate during this crisis.

https://www.floodpk.com/

https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/donate-to-pakistan-flood-relief

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1u4EcNZIhKUltDc7ZPiMT3CLrVooFLFd_4AyKM1raEZs/edit#gid=139435833

 

September 7, 2022 - Comments Off on DRF condemns the arbitrary Youtube shutdowns in the country as ‘Unconstitutional’

DRF condemns the arbitrary Youtube shutdowns in the country as ‘Unconstitutional’

7 Sept 2022: Digital Rights Foundation condemns the arbitrary Youtube shutdowns in the country by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and reiterates that these are unconstitutional blocks.

Youtube is a source of income, information, educational tool, and entertainment for many and these blocks are a direct threat to Articles 19 and 19 A of the Constitution. Pakistan already ranks ‘not free’ on the freedom of the net report index according to Freedom House, and these blocks constitute blatant state censorship for citizens of the country.

It is worrying that the PTA has implemented these blocks without any notice nor justification. This lack of transparency and arbitrary procedures should worry every citizen and political party.

The YouTube shutdowns, yesterday (September 6) and on August 21, were targeted at political speeches by former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Blocking the streaming of political speech of any party is blatant censorship. If the PTA believes that the content in speeches should not be allowed, it should make its reasons for banning public and subject to judicial review.

We would like to reiterate our stance that section 37 of PECA, which gives power to the PTA to block online content, runs afoul of human rights standards and should be repealed. Nevertheless, even section 37 does not authorize a blanket shutdown of an entire social media platform.

August 11, 2022 - Comments Off on July 2022 Newsletter: NCHR, DRF and CEJ hold Consultation on Challenges faced by Women Journalists in the Media

July 2022 Newsletter: NCHR, DRF and CEJ hold Consultation on Challenges faced by Women Journalists in the Media

NCHR, DRF and CEJ hold Consultation on Challenges faced by Women Journalists in the Media

On 29th July, Digital Rights Foundation, in collaboration with National Commission of Human Rights and Centre for Excellence in Journalism conducted a consultation on the challenges faced by women journalists in the media in Islamabad. The consultative meeting was attended by women journalists from across Pakistan. The purpose of the meeting was to give women journalists the space to air their concerns and to collectively address the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. The meeting concluded with NCHR announcing the launch of complaint cell at the NCHR to address the issues and challenges that women journalists face.

The event received massive coverage:

https://www.thefridaytimes.com/2022/08/03/nchr-launches-complaint-cell-for-women-journalists-experiencing-harassment/

https://www.geo.tv/latest/430553-women-journalists-at-high-risks-of-attack-censorship

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/978010-nchr-launches-complaint-cell-for-women-journalists

Online Campaigns

Well-being week

In collaboration with Free Press Unlimited, Digital Rights Foundation, held a week-long online campaign on well-being and self-care for journalists and human rights defenders. The campaign shared content on what self-care is and how incorporating little things in our daily life can go a long way to increase our productivity, improve our physical and mental health outcomes, make us more empathetic and increase our self-esteem. The content also highlighted tips on identifying the signs of burnout and stress and dealing with them in a proactive manner.

A to Z of Online Safety

In collaboration with Free Press Unlimited, Digital Rights Foundation started an online campaign for journalists focusing on the A-Z of online safety. During the campaign, DRF has been posting a tip a day on how can journalists ensure safety in the online spaces.

#OnlinePrivacyCheckup

DRF has been doing a campaign on online privacy and reviewing social media apps security and how to make it better through a few simple steps.

Policy initiatives

DRF took part in assisting Punjab's ‘Cyber Violence Reforms Committee’

DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad was named part of the Punjab government’s Cyber Violence Reforms Committee. The organization provided recommendations to the government to address issues of online gender-based violence to ensure survivor-centric support and assistance. The organization will continue to assist government departments and committees in the future.

DRF submitted its stakeholder input for Pakistan’s fourth cycle for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

DRF made its individual submission to Pakistan’s fourth cycle of the UPR due early 2023. Reporting to international bodies is an important part of Pakistan’s participation in the international human rights community and we hope the recommendations put forward in the submission regarding online freedoms are paid heed to.

Events

Round Table on Investigation and Prosecution of Gender-Based Crimes

DRF’s Aqsa Javed spoke at the Round Table on Investigation and Prosecution of Gender Based Crimes on the 28th of July, 2022. The conference was attended by lawyers, journalists, politicians, police officials, and experts from across the city. In this conference, the panelists discussed the causes of Gender Based Crimes and gave recommendations for eliminating this factor from society and the prevalent criminal justice system.

DRF at Nur Student Leadership Program (NSLP)

DRF’s Zainab Durrani and Seerat Khan held a session on 27th July at the Nur Student Leadership Program (NSLP) at Fatima Memorial with students from O-levels and A-levels on online harassment. The session was attended by around 50 students who discussed the importance of having a strong online privacy.

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)  Regional Meeting:

The Free Press Unlimited Regional Meeting which was held in Phuket, Thailand this year from 19 to 21 July was attended by a representative from DRF. The participants from South and South-East Asia came together to discuss the current state of threats and crisis that journalists face in their respective countries

Press Coverage

Pakistan's digital ID card keeps millions locked out

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke to Thomson Reuters Foundation on data breaches. She focused primarily on women who are particularly vulnerable to breaches of Pakistan’s biometric ID database and how their data is weaponized against them. There was also a focus on the need for a data protection law without which there is little possible recourse.

Link to piece:

https://news.trust.org/item/20220725151706-n2lku/
NWJDR members win in 2022 Women’s Empowerment and Religious Freedom Film Competition

NWJDR is proud to share that our two members,  Zeenat Khan and Khalida Niaz have won the grand prize and 1st runner-up in 2022 Women’s Empowerment and Religious Freedom Film Competition for their films, She Stood Against Religious Extremism & Peace Promoters respectively.

She Stood Against Religious Extremism tells the true story of a young woman in a war-torn region of Pakistan who starts an initiative to counter religious extremism and sectarian violence by holding dialogue sessions with youth from different beliefs and religions.

In Peace Promoters, a young woman in Peshawar, Pakistan counters religious-based violence by building relationships among different faith influencers.

We are proud of the work these women are doing in KP and we are here always to support them Fatima Nazish, Wagma Feroz, Jamaima Afridi, Zeenat Khan and Khalida Niaz.

DRF’s Shmyla Khan shares insights about AI in the Tech Broken Promises

DRF’s Shmyla Khan talks about AI creating an illusion of something happening without human input and how AI can act as "a high tech smokescreen to blur harms against people."

Link to piece:

https://2022.internethealthreport.org/story/tech-broken-promise-shmyla-khan/

DRF Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

The Cyber Harassment Helpline received 213 complaints in July with 142 of these from women throughout the country. If you’re encountering a problem online you can reach out to our helpline on 0800-39393, email us at helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk or reach out to us on our social media accounts.

DRF's Cyber Harassment Helpline is now switching to 7 days a week. You can now call us on 0800-39393 Monday till Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm.

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

StopNCII.org

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

July 13, 2022 - Comments Off on June 2022 Newsletter: Digital Rights Foundation launches its first Digital 50.50 for 2022

June 2022 Newsletter: Digital Rights Foundation launches its first Digital 50.50 for 2022

The theme for the first edition was ‘personal is political’ which received an overwhelming number of pitches from women journalists across the country. The articles penned discussed various sub-topics about how personal is political, a rallying slogan from the late 1960s and 1970s still astonishes us. Some articles focused on specific matters such as and domestic violence being the result of deep-rooted political structures and power dynamics that are intrinsically oppressive and patriarchal. These issues can thus not be sidelined using the pretext that they are trivial, unimportant personal matters to be discussed and resolved within the household

Online Campaigns 

#WellbeingWeek

DRF held a one week long campaign on account of #wellbeingweek from 27th June till 3rd July. In the one week long campaign posts around the importance of well-being and self care were shared.

#StopCyberBullyingDay

DRF shared posts on #StopCyberBullyingDay and shared the impact of cyberbullying on adults and children.

Policy Initiatives

DRF featured on  Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s Feminism and Gender Democracy blog

Illustration by Bushra Saleem.

DRF, in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, conducted a series of focus group discussions with researchers from across the globe in order to deconstruct ‘gendered disinformation’, understand existing work on the subject and identify areas for future interventions. Employing feminist methodology on drawing from lived experiences, the resulting series of policy papers take these experiences to build to definitions, theories and policy recommendations from the ground-up.

Read the blog here.
International Day for Countering Hate Speech

On this International Day for Countering Hate Speech we pledge to make Hamara Internet a safe space for all and not target anyone on the basis of their religion, race, colour, gender or ethnicity. DRF also released research on Religious Minorities in Online spaces highlighting the experience of religious minorities online and making Hamara Internet a safe and inclusive space for all.

Link to research:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Religious-Minorities.pdf
#NoToHate
Study on Healthcare Data Privacy in Pakistan

DRF is conducting surveys on the healthcare data privacy in Pakistan with patients and doctors has designed a survey for it which is being shared online.

If you’ve ever been a patient in the hospital fill the survey below:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScYtJfdIZllFo8f5NgFNE1AlJQJpPsHGvW8gQ5A_JufQ9XJSw/viewform

If you’re a healthcare worker in Pakistan fill the survey before:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1MTRUhtaRXeaLerlZ1m4FBbbA1OyCcBM-X0JDw1FFYEU/viewform?edit_requested=true

Events

RightsCon 2022
Session on Digital Apatheid and Social Media Algorithms on Humanitarian Crisis

DRF hosted a panel on RightsCon on Digital Apartheid and Social Media Algorithms on Humanitarian Crisis in which the panel discussed how some crises are more important for big tech companies than others. The panel was an attempt to interrogate this bias. The panelists on the panel were Mona Shataya from 7amleh, Nighat Dad from the Oversight Board Member, Tanzeel Khan from Kashmir Digital Rights and Seerat Khan Programs and Comms Lead at DRF.

Session on “Content moderation in the Global South: a rock and hard place”

DRF hosted a RightsCon panel to explore the complexities of content moderation in the Global South by big tech and the alternative visions of regulation that can be brought into these subjects. The panels included Victoire Rio from the Myanmar Internet Project, Raghav Mendiratta from Justitia, and Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei from Meta’s Oversight Board.

The discussion can be accessed here.

Democracy Game Changer: Ending Violence Against Women Online

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke on the 360/Open Summit on the panel Democracy Game Changer: Ending Violence Against Women Online on the 7th of June. The panel shed light on the experiences of women in South Asia and the need for a collective approach to tackle those issues.

LIRNEasia discussion series: “Tackling the Information Disorder in Asia”

DRF’s Shmyla Khan participated in the session on Laws and Regulations as part of LIRNEasia discussion series on “Tackling the Information Disorder in Asia” on June 9. The discussion, moderated by Gehan Gunatilleke and panel was attended by Jo-Ann Ding, Mong Palatino, Juni Soehardjo and DRF’s Shmyla Khan to discuss cyber laws in the Asia-Pacific region.

The report launched at the event titled “Meeting the challenges of information disorder in the Global South” can be found here.

Training on Online Safety

DRF held a training with Simorgh on online safety with journalists and activists. The training was an advanced online safety training focusing on secure communication and tools.

Digital skills for journalists session in Islamabad

On 21st June, DRF held a workshop for journalists in Islamabad on digital safety issues. The workshop was attended by 20 journalists. Topics covered included safe and efficient use of social media, digital devices and other communication tools particularly when dealing with vulnerable sources.

Social media platforms and the legal landscape in Lahore and Islamabad

On 15th June and 22nd June DRF held two sessions for journalists in Lahore and Islamabad to build their capacity in the legal landscape that governs the digital spaces where they perform their professional duties. A total of 50 participants attended the two workshops. The workshop was attended by many professionals from the urdu media as well, some of whom said that they were not well-wersed in using digital technologies for their work while others were not aware of the laws that apply on them and the knowledge of which can keep them safe in digital spaces.

Digital safety sessions for Home-based Workers in Sukkur

At the invitation of the Sindh Rural Support Organization (SRSO), supported by JICA, DRF’s trainers conducted two sessions with home-based workers and rural audiences in Sukkur, Sindh on June 22 and 23. The sessions were a greatly rewarding and learning experience for our team.

DRF at Nur Foundation holding a session with students

DRF held a session at Nur Foundation at Fatima Memorial Medical College focusing on online harassment and how to create safe spaces online. The session was attended by students of O'Levels from across Lahore.

Digital Media Society’s seminar on “Rights & Responsibilities of a Digital Citizen

DRF spoke about the importance of digital rights and aware citizens at Digital Media Society’s seminar on “Rights & Responsibilities of a Digital Citizen” on June 28. The seminar was attended by digital media journalists and experts from across the city.

‘Cyber Security and Data Protection Laws and Regulations’ session at UCP

DRF conducted a session with the law students at University of Central Punjab hosted by the UCP Law Society on June 6. The session focused on the data protection law, the need to be mindful of privacy and security while conducting legal work, and what constitutes cyber harassment.

DRF Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline now 7 Days a week

DRF's Cyber Harassment Helpline is now switching to 7 days a week. You can now call us on 0800-39393 Monday till Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm.

May Statistics of the Helpline

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1534173335608627200?s=20&t=Hhhc-fi-tqxjWXyW4eTwcw

In May, the Cyber Harassment Helpline received 232 complaints from across Pakistan. The helpline received the most complaints from females, which were about 63%.

June Statistics

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1544278069040631818?s=20&t=rZUbtgwcitC7oN9-wTNI0Q

In June the Cyber Harassment Helpline received 234 complaints from across the country. Most complaints were by women on the helpline.

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

StopNCII.org

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

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June 14, 2022 - Comments Off on May Newsletter 2022: DRF releases Cyber Harassment Helpline Annual Report 2021

May Newsletter 2022: DRF releases Cyber Harassment Helpline Annual Report 2021

Policy Initiatives

DRF releases Cyber Harassment Helpline Annual Report 2021

This month, the 2021 Annual Helpline Report was launched with a weeklong social media campaign which was covered by all major press publications in the country. Videos featuring women journalists’ experience with online harassment by virtue of their gender and profession were also shared, as well as videos featuring graphics of some statistics from the report.

Link to report: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/helpline-annual-report-2021-1.pdf

Cyber Harassment Helpline Policy Brief 2022

DRF is proud to launch the Cyber Harassment Helpline: 2022 Policy Brief, highlighting the risks that women journalists face in online spaces.

Click here to read the full policy brief: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Policy-Brief-2.pdf

Online Campaigns

Twitter Space: How can the Cyber Harassment Helpline you?

Journalists Tehreem Azeem and Sabah Bano Malik joined Nighat Dad for a Twitter Space titled ‘How can the Cyber Harassment Helpline help you?’

Link to space: https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1527180770074406912?s=20&t=G_kS6ZgFnCJpPmyT8dknqA

World Press Freedom Day

On this World Press Freedom Day DRF held a campaign on press freedom which started off with a tribute to journalists who lost their lives to bring credible information to the public. Infographics related to the ten challenges that journalists faced in the digital world were slao shared.

Twitter Space on World Press Freedom Day 2022

DRF held a Twitter space on 6th May on account of World Press Freedom Day regarding press freedom with Mehmal Sarfaraz, Amber Shamsi, Munizae Jahangir and Nighat Dad. In the Twitter Space women journalists highlighted their experiences in the field and the trolling they face on the internet.

Stories of Women Journalists and their experiences with Cyber Harassment

DRF introduces its series on 'Stories of Women Journalists & their experiences with Cyber Harassment.' The stories capture these women's experiences of the internet & how they were targeted online because of their work.

#SahafatAurSachai

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1529417001264766976?s=20&t=G_kS6ZgFnCJpPmyT8dknqA

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1529779380062343169?s=20&t=G_kS6ZgFnCJpPmyT8dknqA

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1531953705808850946?s=20&t=G_kS6ZgFnCJpPmyT8dknqA
DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline in collaboration with the FIA working together to stop online harassment

One of the services that the Cyber Harassment Helpline provides is legal guidance in the face of online harassment. We regularly refer and work with the FIA to provide relief to our complainants. The Cyber Harassment Helpline is available 7 days a week from 9 am till 5 pm (Monday to Sunday). Call us on 0800-39393, email us at
helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk, or reach out to us on Twitter.

 

Press/Media Coverage

DRF’s Nighat Dad joined Capital Talk to discuss online harassment against women journalists

DRF’s Nighat Dad joined Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk show to highlight harassment online that women and women journalists face. She also focused on structural reform and due process in the system to provide protection.

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1522576920768000000?s=20&t=G_kS6ZgFnCJpPmyT8dknqA

How DRF’s Women-Led Team Provides Support To Victims Of Cyber Harassment Amid Govt’s Indifference

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline Annual Report was covered by the Friday Times highlighting the accomplishments of the helpline.

Cyber Harassment Helpline 2021 Report Release at Lahore Rang

Lahore Rang: The Cyber Harassment Helpline Manager appeared on the Good Morning Lahore show to talk about the 2021 Helpline Annual Report. She talked about the different types of cases that the Helpline receives, the role of law enforcement agencies, and what people can do to protect themselves online.

Trainings’/Workshops

Journalism Under Digital Seige: World Press Freedom Day

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke on a panel in Islamabad held by UNESCO titled, ‘Journalism Under Digital Seige’ on account of World Press Freedom Day. She emphasized taking a multi-stakeholder approach to any regulatory mechanism which is to be applied to the internet and social media.

Digital rights from a feminist perspective. How to create a secure digital space for women?

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke at the Palestine Digital Activism Forum on the panel ‘Digital Rights from a Feminist Perspective. How to create a secure digital space for women?’. Nighat focused on the need for women to reclaim online spaces and express ourselves freely without the threat of trolling online.

Participation in IAF Seminar

DRF and Pakistan were represented at the 2022 IAF Seminar on ‘Liberalism v Populism’ by Project Manager Zainab Durrani from the 8th to the 20th of May in Gummersbach, Germany. The seminar attempted to deconstruct populism in a holistic manner by analyzing populism from the perspectives of its philosophical foundations, its political strategy with international case studies to its current-day political communication strategy. The methodology was a mix of theory with practice with a particular focus on the aspect of political storytelling. The seminar was facilitated by Sven Gerst, a veteran IAF instructor and PhD candidate at the King’s College London and Radu Magdin, a global analyst and consultant who specializes in political communications. The seminar saw 25 participants from 22 countries around the world and was a deeply interesting experience with a sharp and informative learning curve that was coupled with team-building and idea-exchanging group activities, leading to a very rewarding experience overall.

Computers, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) Conference

DRF took part in the 15th international Computers, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) conference. Shmyla Khan spoke at the panel titled “Datafication and Platformisation in Asia: Data-Rich and Policy-Poor or Vice Versa?” on May 24, 2022. The panel, moderated by Malavika Jayaram, unpacked the specific ways in which datafication and platformisation across Asia are both enabling and challenging, and their implications for rights, entitlements, and consumer welfare while highlighting recent legal and policy developments (in China, Pakistan, Singapore).

Details of the panel can be found here.

DRF Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

Cyber Harassment Helpline now 7 Days a week

DRF's Cyber Harassment Helpline is now switching to 7 days a week. You can now call us on 0800-39393 Monday till Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm.

April Statistics

In April 2022 the Cyber Harassment Helpline received 195 complaints from across the country. The majority of the complaints received were by women of blackmail and sharing of NCUI (non-consensual use of information).

https://twitter.com/DigitalRightsPK/status/1524034023349276674?s=20&t=G_kS6ZgFnCJpPmyT8dknqA

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

StopNCII.org

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

https://stopncii.org/

 

May 10, 2022 - Comments Off on April Newsletter 2022: DRF launches Annual Report 2021

April Newsletter 2022: DRF launches Annual Report 2021

Policy Initiatives

DRF launched Annual Report 2021

DRF launched its annual report 2021 which is a summation of the work we have done over the year, the people helped, and the milestones we’ve achieved!

Link to annual report: https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Annual-Report-2021.pdf

Policy Papers: Perspectives on Gendered Disinformation

DRF launched its anthology titled “Policy Papers: Perspectives on Gendered Disinformation” throughout March and April 2022. The research study, with contributions from 6 authors, is brings feminist perspectives from the Global South to the subject of disinformation. A must read for anyone interested in these subjects and the future of the internet!

The anthology/report can be accessed here.

DRF condemns arrests and harassment for online speech and dissent.

DRF released a statement condemning the arrests and harassment for online speech and dissent on political party workers. Read our full statement here.

DRF signed an MoU with Bali Memorial Trust

An MoU was signed between DRF and Bali Memorial Trust this week. This agreement is a formal recognition of a fruitful partnership in which both organizations will try their best to help each other to the best of their abilities with the services they can provide.

Online Campaigns

Phishing Scams

DRF shared an awareness-raising infographic on phishing scams and how they are becoming more and more common as the use of social media rises worldwide.

#WomenMakingWaves

DRF continued with its women making waves campaign and celebrated the feminist icon Asma Jahangir! Asma Jahangir left behind a legacy based on her work in human rights that is as powerful as it is inspiring!

Trainings’/Workshops

New Agendas for Data Justice

April 6. 2022

DRF took part in a panel discussion titled “New Agendas for Data Justice” hosted by the Alan Turing Institute to talk about its participation in the multi-country project on data justice.

Details of the panel can be found here.

Details of the data justice project can be accessed here.

Online Safety Workshop

April 18, 2022

DRF conducted a workshop with media professionals, particularly focusing on Urdu media, to build their understanding and capacity in using safe online practices to advance their work in digital journalism. The workshop was held in Lahore and was attended by 17 people in total.

Meeting with Ombudsperson:

April 12, 2022

DRF’s legal team had a meeting with the Ombudsperson (Punjab) and submitted proposed amendments to ‘The (Punjab) Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act’. During the meeting, the challenges faced by the survivors of sexual harassment at workplace were discussed. Moreover, the possibility of collaboration was considered.

Press/Media Coverage

Digital rights body receives 4,441 blackmailing complaints

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline received 4441 blackmailing complaints in 2021 alone.

Read the full article here: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/952849-digital-rights-body-receives-4-441-blackmailing-complaints

Civil Liberties Groups Urge Social Media Platforms to Better Protect Free Flow of Information in Crisis Zones

DRF signed a statement with other civil liberties groups on how Russia's invasion of Ukraine underscores the need to plan for emergencies and treat all crisis zones even-handedly.

Read the full statement here:

https://www.eff.org/press/releases/human-rights-groups-urge-social-media-platforms-better-protect-free-flow-information

COVID19/Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

In March of 2022, the Cyber Harassment Helpline catered to 206 unique cases of online violence. The majority of the complaints received by our team were made by women. Callers on the helpline range from lawyers and journalists to members of minority groups, too.

You can reach out to us at 0800-39393 or helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.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
StopNCII.org

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

https://stopncii.org

April 13, 2022 - Comments Off on March 2022 Newsletter: Women Making Waves: DRF celebrates Women’s Day this March!

March 2022 Newsletter: Women Making Waves: DRF celebrates Women’s Day this March!

Campaigns:

Women Making Waves: DRF celebrates Women’s Day on 8th March

For Women’s Day this year, DRF launched its long awaited campaign, “Women Making Waves” which highlighted the achievements of women across a diverse range of fields. The spirit, joy, resilience and hard work of women such as Asma Jahangir, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, Hina Jillani and Jehan Ara was celebrated.

As part of our campaign, a virtual panel was held in the form of a Tweetchat in which speakers were invited to share their experiences and thoughts  regarding Digital Feminism.

DRF Collaborates with META to launch StopNCII

DRF worked alongside Meta to launch the StopNCII (Stop Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse) for users in Pakistan. The portal, available in English and Urdu, allows any victims of online blackmailing and extortion to preemptively prevent intimate images to be uploaded onto the platform without their consent.

The portal can be accessed through this link: https://stopncii.org/ or by reaching out to DRF’s Helpline

Policy Initiatives

Survey on Digital Engagement and Experiences of Youth

DRF is conducting research on the “Digital Engagement and Experiences of Pakistani Youth” to map issues faced by young people in Pakistan vis-a-viz the internet. Help us spread the word by sharing the survey among 18 - 35 year olds in Pakistan.

Access the survey: https://t.co/O9fWVCZ4er.

Trainings and Workshops

DRF hosts session with Medical Students on Online Violence

DRF held a session with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) on Online Violence. Seerat Khan and Hyra Basit conducted a session with IFMSA with students from Allama Iqbal medical university on online violence and the legal landscape currently present in Pakistan. The session was attended by 43 students online in which they shared their experience of navigating online spaces.

UNDP Panel on Gender Equality for a Sustainable Tomorrow

International Women's Day 2022 Online Deliberation: "Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow"- On 9th March DRF’s Program Manager Seerat Khan took part in an online panel on Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow for UNDP. The panel had Rukshanda Naz (Ombudsperson KP), Rabia Javeri (Chairperson National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR)), Seerat Khan (Senior Program Manager DRF) and Tahira Abdullah (Independent Human Rights Defender). The session was moderated by Salman Asif ( Senior Human Rights and Social Protection Expert UNDP). Each panelist highlighted different themes of gender based violence in Pakistan and discussed the current discourse on it. The session was in light of the International Women’s Day.

Nighat Dad Moderates Panel, “Justice, not #Hastags”

On March 5th 2022, Nighat Dad moderated a panel titled “Justice, not #hashtags: Navigating Violence Against Women and its Digital Reflection” as part of the WOW Festival 2022. The panel included DRF’s Shmyla Khan along with Imaan Mazari and Asma Shirazi. The discussion was centered around the importance and limitations of online spaces in pursuing gender justice in Pakistan.

The panel can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4HepVth81o&list=PLrgMMGAhwz5geDjpuxXZQnEwO-vwNfv7Q

Panel on Importance of Free Speech

An excellent panel was held by The Future of Free Speech on free speech and content moderation on 17th March, 2022.  Experts from the industry, academia and civil society were all present and shared their views on the importance and relevance of free speech in today’s day and age.

Stakeholder Dialogue by CPDI attended by DRF

DRF attended a stakeholder dialogue by CPDI on Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2021 on the 29th of March. The dialogue had meaningful conversations around strong local governments and making them more inclusive. The consultations was attended by MPA’s, civil society, lawyers and judges working on the issue.

DRF’s Meeting with NCHR:

DRF’s team met with the National Commission of Human Rights in Lahore to discuss issues of digital rights, including data protection, content moderation and safety. This meeting was held on 14th March, 2022.

DRF takes part in Report Launch by GPAI 2022

As part of its research as a pilot partner with the Alan Turning Institute UK, DRF took part in the GPAI 2022 “Report launch: advancing research and practice on data justice” panel. Shmyla Khan, the director for research and policy presented DRF’s findings at the panel. This panel was held on 23rd of March, 2022.

You can learn more about the project here.

The panel can be viewed here

DRF Team Meets with Ombudsperson, Punjab

DRF’s team met with the Ombudsperson (Punjab) on 30th March, 2022 to discuss issues faced by survivors of harassment at the workplace and accordingly proposed amendments to the law.

Workshops on Digital Rights Awareness Held in 3 Districts by DRF

DRF conducted 6 one-day workshops in partnership with Simorgh between March 16 to 25, 2022 in three districts of Punjab (Lahore, Kasur and Toba Tek Singh). The workshops by DRF focused on issues of online safety and digital rights awareness for communities.

Press and Media Coverage

katalystlabspk

@LabsKatalyst

#KatalysingKween @nighatdad is a force to reckon with! She is a lawyer and founder of @DigitalRightsPK focused on making the internet a safe space for everyone, especially women in Pakistan & South Asia

We invite you to our first discussion in three-part webinar series titled "Access to Justice: Obstacles & the way forward”

Topic: No honor in killing - The law & its implication (Review of Criminal Law Amendments 2016 - Mar 2, 2022 06:00 PM

Covid-19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline receives 151 complaints in February

In February, the Cyber Harassment Helpline received a total 151 complaints.  Majority of these complaints were received through the medium of calls received on our Helpline number.  Types of cases reported were mainly linked to cyber harassment. However, cases of domestic violence, general inquiry and financial fraud were also recorded.

The Cyber Harassment Helpline receives calls from individuals belonging to a range of professions, including journalism, civil society and media personnel. Cyber Harassment can happen to anyone, regardless of their profession or status in society.

April 7, 2022 - Comments Off on February 2022 Newsletter: DRF Launches its Pro-bono Legal Network to Support Women and Girls Experiencing Gender-based Violence Cases.

February 2022 Newsletter: DRF Launches its Pro-bono Legal Network to Support Women and Girls Experiencing Gender-based Violence Cases.

Policy Initiatives

Ab Aur Nahi - Pro Bono Lawyer Network

In light of increased cases of domestic violence against women and young girls, DRF decided to relaunch the ‘Ab aur Nahin’ initiative. This initiative has been developed by the legal team and is an attempt to create an expansive and supportive community of capable lawyers. These lawyers will offer their services for free to women and children who have undergone abuse and do not have the means to fund their legal expenses.

These services will hence constitute pro bono legal services. The aim is to bring together like minded individuals to support those in need.

To become a part of this initiative to help women and gender minorities, sign up here: https://t.co/s66fm56vyd

Digital Engagement and Experiences of Pakistani Youth Survey:

A survey on the Digital experiences and engagement of young Pakistanis was circulated in February. This survey and study is being conducted to look at patterns of the youth with regard to their usage of social media and the role it plays in their day to day lives.

We would love your input! This survey will only take a few minutes, we would really appreciate it if you could spare the time and fill it out! Find the survey here!:https://forms.gle/rQZ7JXYexpuzeSxP7…

Trainings and Workshops

Safe and Democratic Online Spaces in Pakistan - Session

DRF conducted the Safe and Democratic Online Spaces in Pakistan session with human rights defenders. This session was hosted online on Zoom and was based  on online safety and the  digital landscape. The session was held on the 16th and 17th of February, 2021. The session was attended by 18 participants.

Campaigns

The Cyber Harassment Helpline January 2022 Activity

The start of 2022 has been a demanding and busy time for the Helpline, with 242 new complaints registered. 181 of these complaints were calls made to our Helpline.

Once more, we predominantly received complaints made by women (161) who were cyber harassment, blackmailing and unsolicited contact.

We also directly help human rights defenders such as journalists, lawyers and activists, who are susceptible to online hate speech and bullying

Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you or anyone you know is experiencing cyber harassment or hate speech online.

Media and Press Coverage:

Nighat Dad speaks at Information and Democracy Forum Panel

Nighat Dad spoke at the panel based on information and the need for a proactive democratic governance system in the Digital space. She is the vice-chair of @Forum_InfoD,  and joined remotely to talk about our efforts to establish an International Observatory on information and democracy.

#MediaFreedomConference #MediaFreedom

Nighat Dad speaks on Hate Speech and Challenges to Governance at

Nighat Dad joined a group of panelists as a member of the Oversight Board. She joined in for an online public plenary at #IMCKUGU and spoke about hate speech and the challenges to governance as a consequence.

This online panel was held on February 15th, 2022 at 14:00 PKT.

Nighat shared some insights on how the Oversight Board is trying to balance the interests of users and communities around the world.

You can watch the full session at https://bit.ly/3LO4gig

Nighat Dad speaks at Panel, “Cybercrime: A Digital Threat”

Our Executive  Director Nighat Dad spoke at the panel “Cybercrime: A Digital Threat” this Monday & discussed various threats such as stalking, stealing of identities & selling of personal data which are quickly becoming global threats to online communities.

Watch here: https://tinyurl.com/mjk6x3c

Covid-19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline Officers take the first Thursday of every month for self-care!

The Cyber Harassment Helpline will not be available on Thursday, 3rd February on account of being a self-care day for Helpline Officers. This gives them time to unwind and return to their posts rejuvenated! You can always reach out to us on our socials in case you need to!

 

 

 

March 3, 2022 - Comments Off on January 2022 Newsletter: DRF Launches 5th Edition of Digital 50.50; Feminist E-Magazine on GBV

January 2022 Newsletter: DRF Launches 5th Edition of Digital 50.50; Feminist E-Magazine on GBV

Policy Initiatives

DRF Launches 5th Edition of Digital 50.50; Feminist E-Magazine on GBV

DRF launched it's last edition of Digital 50.50 for 2021 in January. The issue focused on fighting gender based violence and covered features and research articles penned down by our network of women journalists. It can be accessed on DRF's website here:

https://www.canva.com/design/DAEzo1W7s7I/1OaMaXQdK7uMaOTJoNW-bw/view

 

New Issue of Hamara Internet

After a successful relaunch of our Hamara Internet website, DRF launched new content on the website! New Vlogs, Blogs and E-Bulletin articles were shared on the website with the theme being gender based violence.The content shed light on varying forms and aspects of gender based violence on society at large.

Visit the HI website here: https://hamarainternet.org/

DRF backs Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, Amendment 2022.

The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Act, 2022, drafted by the Ministry of Human Rights with input from women’s rights groups & lawyers has been lauded as a ‘revolutionary step’.

Read more: https://www.geo.tv/latest/396170-revolutionary-step-bill-to-protect-women-against-harassment-at-workplace-becomes-law

Submission to Special Rapporteur on Right to Freedom of Expression

DRF made  a submission to the Special Rapporteur on Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression for a report on “Opportunities, Challenges and Threats to Media in the Digital Age”.

Submission can be found on our website here.

Stories of Women Journalists: Initiative launched by DRF to support Journalists in Pakistan

DRF launched its “Stories of Women Journalists” an important initiative thatt sheds light on the real life experiences of women journalists in relation to experiencing cyber harassment and online abuse. The stories are real life accounts of the varying forms of harassment women in the field have had to face as a consequence of choosing a profession in journalism in Pakistan.

DRF Commemorates Annual Data Privacy Day

In honour of Data Privacy Day being observed world over on 28th January. DRF shared important discussions held at its 8th National Data Privacy Conference in Islamabad, which occurred in November of 2021. DRF has done extensive work on data privacy through it's Data Protection & Privacy portfolio. Privacy is a core tenet of the advocacy work we do, and we have conducted various studies & researches on this topic.

#DataPrivacyDay

Here is some of our research:https://tinyurl.com/mv4626a

Also, you can access all the panels held at the conference at the link to our YouTube channel here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cweQhKjqU4Q

Panels and Webinars

Nighat Dad speaks as Guest Lecturer at ITU on Surveillance and Data Privacy

Nighat spoke at Information Technology University as a guest lecturer for a course on 24th January, 2022. She discussed the relevant topics of surveillance and Data Privacy in today’s day and age.The theme discussed was  contextualized in Pakistan.

Nighat Dad speaks at American Bar Association Virtual  Event on Data Security and Digital Privacy

Our Executive Director, Nighat, spoke at the virtual session hosted by the American Bar Association on 'Data security and digital privacy in the Asia-Pacific region', on 26th Jan alongside Michael Pang (@Protiviti), and Patel Champa @patel_champa (@CrisisGroup).

Events and Training Sessions

DRF Attends Stakeholder Consultation Hosted by UNDP on Gender Gap in Tech

DRF attended the Stakeholder Consultation: Time to Close the Gender Gap in Tech by UNDP in which a much needed discussion around gender and technology took place. DRF shared it’s own research on the subject and how more needs to be done in order to make the internet a safer and inclusive space.

Media Coverage

Executive Director of DRF, Nighat Dad was mentioned in an article produced by UNDP regarding the Development Advocate Pakistan project review. For the report, “The Equality Paradigm, Nighat was quoted saying, "Digital technologies are central to human rights activism in bearing witness of lived realities, developing campaigns for human rights and placing demands of govts & the international community.”

DRF Speaks with  Creators of Comic “Digital Rights and Feminist Futures”

DRF spoke to the creators of the Comic “Digital Rights and Feminist Futures” and to gain an insight into the motivation, creative process and ideation that went behind the brilliant piece.

Read the blog featuring @azizalaziza & @SiddiquiZuha here: https://t.co/O1sEKnylJw

Nighat Dad’s Work Featured in Feminish Tech Principles Initiative

Our Executive Director Nighat Dad was featured in Feminist Tech Principles put together with Superrr Lab. She was asked to share her “Feminist Tech Principle” which she stated as “acccessibility, equitable participation and representation.” You can find her contributions here: https://tinyurl.com/485c4jjt

You can access groovy and interesting website for Feminist Tech Principles here: http://feministtech.org

Covid-19 Updates

In January of 2022,  the Cyber Harassment Helpline recorded 191 complaints received, out of which 160 complaints were calls.

We predominately dealt with cases or cyber harassment & received a number of complaints by journalists who were receiving threats and ongoing instances of hacking. If you are experiencing any form of cyber harassment or suspect someone may be, do not hesitate to reach us at 0800-39393 or contact us on our social media platforms.

 

February 22, 2022 - Comments Off on Civil Society Strongly Condemns the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022

Civil Society Strongly Condemns the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022

February 22, 2022

We, a coalition of civil society organisations, are alarmed by the enactment of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022 as it is an affront to online free expression in the country, amounting to unprecedented censorship and chilling of free speech in digital spaces. The Ordinance runs afoul of Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution of Pakistan which guarantees freedom of expression. Furthermore, the process by which the amendments have been made, arbitrarily and via Ordinance bypassing Parliament, is an affront to democratic values.

The Ordinance expands on the already problematic section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) to make it a non-bailable offence. The offence of criminal defamation under section 20 has already been used to target journalists, political opponents and survivors of gender-based violence, leading to calls from civil society to repeal the section. Instead of paying heed to these calls, the government has, in a blatant disregard to human rights, chosen to expand the section further to apply to legal persons as opposed to “natural persons” as was previously covered. This Ordinance seeks to include defamation of “public figure or a holder of public office” within the ambit of the section which will have the effect of insulating those in power from any criticism. It is obvious that the sole purpose of this Ordinance is to make it criminally punishable to criticise the state and its officials, against settled jurisprudence that extends protections through defamation to private persons as opposed to public figures who lesser protections.

Furthermore, criminal defamation is internationally recognised to be violative of the freedom of expression, especially when civil remedies exist in the law. While the freedom of expression under the Constitution is not absolute, it bears noting that defamation is not part of the provisos to Article 19 in the Constitution. The amendments, additionally, which mean the expansion of criminal sanctions on the fundamental right to free speech are neither proportionate (as they expand the term of punishment from 3 to 5 years) nor necessary.

Secondly, the use of an Ordinance to amend a law passed by Parliament is extremely worrisome and part of an alarming trend where the government is using its extraordinary powers of Ordinance-making to erode the powers of the Parliament and lawmaking institutions. This is a blatant disregard for the Constitution, which only allows for ordinances to be in extraordinary situations when parliament is not in session and cannot be called into session to address an issue that requires immediate action. Furthermore, this is violative of the principle of the separation of powers as the executive branch through the cabinet and President are overstepping into the legislature’s domain. It is obvious that the government does not wish to pass laws through consultation, allowing no opportunity for discussion or debate–the very objective of the Ordinance itself.

We call on the citizens of Pakistan to recognise this Ordinance for what it is–an attack on their Constitutional right to free expression and access to information. If allowed to stand, this Ordinance will have the effect of completely silencing any differing opinions or forms of expression in the country. It is imperative that opposition parties, who erred when they promulgated PECA in the first place, course correct and block this Ordinance from becoming a permanent feature of the law. Lastly, the government is urged to immediately withdraw the Ordinance and refrain from presenting it for assent once the three-month lifespan of the Ordinance lapses. Instead, we call upon all political parties to repeal section 20 should be done through the Parliament given that it runs afoul the Constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.

Signatories:

AGHS
Alliance for Diversity and Pluralism in Media (ADPM)
ASR Resource Center
Bolo Bhi
Courting The Law
Digital Rights Foundation 
DigiMap
Freedom Network 
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA)
Joint Action Committee (JAC)
Media Matters for Democracy 
Pakistan Press Foundation 
Public Lawyers’ Front (PLF)