November 2, 2020 - Comments Off on Pakistani students in Wuhan: the other side of the story

Pakistani students in Wuhan: the other side of the story

Autor: Tehreem Azeem

Tehreem Azeem is a digital media journalist and a Ph.D. scholar at the Communication University of China.

She tweets @tehreemazeem

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“Can you connect me with any Pakistani student in Wuhan?”

This was the common request I was getting from my friends and colleagues working in media houses of Pakistan. I came to Beijing in September of last year to do a PhD in Communication Studies. Four months later, I saw China battling a novel coronavirus which we all today know as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Some of my friends in the media took my comments too for their stories on the situation of Pakistani students in China but I was living in Beijing, 1,115 km away from the virus-hit Wuhan. They were more interested in connecting with someone from Wuhan. Soon, we realized the media was interested in the ‘we are dying here’ statements only. Many of the students stopped talking to the media as it was not helping them; instead, it was making their families in Pakistan more worried.

Hira* completed her PhD in December from a university in Wuhan. She had booked a flight of late January which got cancelled after the city was put into lockdown. The university had stopped her stipend as she had graduated. Her university allowed her to stay on campus for free the whole period.

‘It was tough. The university was helping us at every level. They gave us masks, sanitizers, and anything we wanted to get from outside. My problem was a bit different. My stipend had stopped. I did not know how long the quarantine would go. I requested the embassy to at least send us (those who had graduated) to Pakistan. We had nothing to do here,’ she said.

She finally left Wuhan on the first flight of Pakistan International Airlines on 19 May 2020. She spent her quarantine talking with Pakistani girls in a WeChat group. That was the time when some students from Wuhan University of Science and Technology released a video on social media in which they said they had limited food supplies and the government must evacuate them. I asked Hira if she was getting the groceries easily in Wuhan.

Screenshot from the video message of Pakistani students of Wuhan University of Science and Technology

‘Yes, that was not the problem. I had rice, pulses, and spices. I could also order groceries online. Prices of few commodities did go high but I would not say that I was not getting anything.’

Hira said the students were scared of the uncertainty of the whole situation. They just wanted to leave China.

Pakistan decided not to evacuate its citizens from Wuhan. The news was immediately picked up by international media. Deutsche Welle news published a video on their YouTube channel with the title ‘Is Pakistan abandoning its citizens in China?’. The anchor talked to a student from the Xianning city of Hubei province to know the living conditions in lockdown. He told him that he could not even go out of the campus and the city was in complete lockdown.

‘There is no transportation. Our city is totally locked down - no trains, no airports. We are just trapped in our rooms and no one is here to help us.’

Later, a TV anchor took senior journalist Shahzeb Jillani on the video link to get his comment on this issue. Jillani clearly said the real reason behind Pakistan’s decision to not evacuate its citizens from Wuhan was Pak-China friendship.

‘The official stance is that Pakistan does not want the disease to spread. It is acting under WHO guidelines and the Chinese have assured them that we will take care of the situation but the real reason we all know is the special relationship between China and Pakistan.’

No doubt, that was the main reason Pakistan refused to airlift its people from Wuhan. The government first announced to provide financial aid to students in Wuhan and later said it will also send food. The students did receive money but that was not equivalent to USD 840 which was promised. Each student in Wuhan received 3500 yuan which makes USD 496. However, eight students of the University of Chinese academy of sciences and twelve students of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural sciences did not receive this money till the end of March. They received the money after the issue was highlighted in a report of Independent Urdu.

The Pakistani media should have investigated these stories but it preferred to disturb our families in China. Social media influencers or bloggers were no different. Comedian Junaid Akram in a podcast while criticizing the government on its stance about students in Wuhan said that he received calls and messages from relatives of people living in China. He said that students in China had not much food to eat and that they were surviving on whatever rations they had.

Junaid Akram released this podcast on 2 February 2020

TV channels in Pakistan showed visuals from the video message of students from Wuhan University of Science and Technology in their news bulletins. Jamal Ahmed was a student of The Communication University of China in Beijing. His family told him to take the first available flight to Pakistan after they watched these reports on TV channels. Ahmed had to buy an expensive ticket and return to Pakistan; otherwise, he had planned to go after his graduation in July. He talked to a couple of journalists before his departure.

‘I told a journalist that China has even closed mosques so people could not gather at any place. The reporter wrote in their report that Muslim students are even not allowed to go to mosques in China. I contacted the person and asked them to correct it. They changed it after half an hour.’

Ahmed stopped watching TV after he returned home. He said watching TV during the outbreak was creating more panic than the virus itself.

Nazish Zafar of BBC Urdu says the media was taking information from the videos students were posting on social media. She says those videos had different messages – some students wanted to come back, and some did not. The media preferred to stay with the videos, which showed panic, helplessness, and fear.

‘Also, there was no official statement to verify and crosscheck their claims of food shortage. President Alvi and the Foreign minister after their visit to China told the media that the students had asked for Pakistani food. This statement somehow confirmed that the students had food-related issues.’

Sisters Sehar Iqbal and Mehar Iqbal are studying Chinese literature at Wuhan University.  They started vlogging in January. They released a video on 26 January 2020 in which first, they showed the masks their university had given them. Later, they went out of the campus to buy groceries for lockdown. They say we don’t know how long we will have to live like this. In their next video, they talked about the situation of foreigners in Wuhan. They said the situation was not as bad as it was being shown.

‘Our teachers are taking care of us. The whole Pakistani community of our university is in a WeChat group. Our representative took details of each student and forwarded it to the embassy. It’s not like we are alone here.’

Both sisters, Sehar Iqbal and Mehar Iqbal share screen in one of their video on YouTube: Screengrab

They also told that the university had opened its cafeterias and supermarkets which normally are kept closed during summer and winter vacations. Dawn news shared their video in a news story. Aljazeera also published their video on its website and social media platforms on 3 February. This video became the most-watched video on its Facebook and Twitter accounts that week. Both sisters talked to many media houses after that giving the same stance that the situation was not as bad in Wuhan as the media was showing.

When I approached them to have their comments for this piece, they told me that the Pakistani students of their university were threatening them for their comments on media. They said to me that the Pakistani community of their university had decided to give a single narrative in media to push the government to send a plane for their evacuation.

They shared screenshots of a few messages they had received on the Chinese messaging app WeChat with me. In one message, a student told them to take permission from him before giving any comment in the media. The student has written in his message that even male students take his permission before talking to the media. He also wrote that the girls were disrespecting him for not doing so.

Iqbal sisters told me that that particular student is still in China. He did not go back to Pakistan when the plane finally arrived in Wuhan.

A friend of them sent them a message to tell that many members of the Pakistani community had asked him for their fathers’ mobile number. Apparently, they wanted to call him to stop their daughters.

They also received a message from a Chinese number on their WhatsApp in which the sender said that they were not supporting their brothers and sisters. In a friend request on WeChat, a person not only abused them but also threatened to leak their biodata.

The girls said that their WeChat id and WhatsApp number was already shared in the Pakistani community. Some students even called their house and talked to their parents.

The girls were in touch with an official in the embassy of Pakistan in Beijing. They shared these screenshots with the officer. The official did not do much except calling the dean of their department who called them and assured of his full support. Iqbal sisters did not file any complaint to the International Students Office of their university. They said they were so afraid and they did not want any of those threats to come true.

Both sisters appeared in Zara Hat Kay of Dawn News on 9th April 2020. In this show, they mentioned that they were receiving threats for their comments. They also told the hosts how their university was taking care of them during the peak of the outbreak.

While talking to me, they said that their university was providing three-time meals, masks, sanitizers, fruits, sanitary napkins for female students, and diapers for the families with children.

A PhD student of their university who wishes to remain anonymous and who had sent them a threatening message said that the community had decided to put pressure on the government through the media for their evacuation.

‘The whole situation was uncertain here. Everything was closed at that time, and we had no idea when things will come to normal at that time. No student from Wuhan University said that they were not getting food supplies. Some of us had medical issues; three women were pregnant. The outbreak was putting them into depression. Some people were above 40 years of age. That is why the community here was pressurising the government for evacuation.’

I also asked him about the threats Iqbal sisters were receiving for not following what the community was directing and sticking with their comments. He said it might have happened and no one should be blamed for it. It was the uncertainty and the fear of getting an infection that made them harsh.

 This single event tells us how user-generated content can affect media reports if not verified or cross-checked. The Iqbal girls went through a lot, more than any of us whose families would call them hysterically after watching TV reports about our situation in China. That was a tough time. It has passed, but we have lost our faith in the media of our country.  

*Names were changed to protect the privacy of the individual(s)

October 27, 2020 - Comments Off on Support Systems and Mental Health

Support Systems and Mental Health

Support System or for that matter Social Help, is frequently recognized as a key segment of strong connections and solid mental wellbeing, however, what precisely does it mean? 

Social help includes having an organization of loved ones that you can go to amid hardships or mental health crises. 

Regardless of whether you are confronting an individual emergency and need quick help, or you simply need to invest energy with individuals who care about you, these connections assume a basic part by the way you work in your everyday life.

Having a couple of individuals, you trust and can go to, can assist you with overseeing regular difficulties, settle on difficult choices or in any event, during an emergency circumstance. 

Support Systems are a significant aspect of our lives. These frameworks incorporate anybody we trust and can go to for help, guidance, or some other sort of enthusiastic help. Our social emotionally supportive network might be comprised of our loved ones; the 

people we uphold; each have their own social emotionally supportive networks that can include: 

  • Family individuals 
  • Friends 
  • Therapists 
  • Teachers 
  • Anyone else whom one can trust
  • Pen pals
  • Or even one’s own pets

At the point when one has a group of strong connections, one benefits in the following ways: 

  • Improved physical and enthusiastic wellbeing.

 Support systems are gainful for keeping up with physical and psychological well-being. Our connections can assist us with remaining dynamic and take part in exercises that we find significant. It can likewise improve our passionate prosperity. 

  • Improved feeling of having a place and security.

 Investing energy with individuals and knowing one is in good company lessens sentiments of confinement and dejection. Having individuals to connect within a period of scarcity can be soothing. Drawing in with other people who have encountered depression, for example, by joining a support group, can assist one with seeing that one is in good company and there are approaches to overcome misery. 

  • Better critical thinking.

One’s encouraging friends who act as our support system can assist us with working out issues and lessen pressure. Friends or family members that are facing the same issues as us, might have the option to furnish us with helpful direction, guidance, and methodologies that have worked for them. 

  • Responsibility.

 Being responsible for another person, or pet has been demonstrated to be a key factor in making a fruitful way of life changes. 

Pets are also a great motivator for people. Dogs especially are great at encouraging owners to get exercise, and this can be beneficial for those suffering from depression. Cats on the other hand are very therapeutic, it’s been scientifically proven that people with heart diseases who’ve kept cats have minimal chances of getting a heart attack.  Pets can also have calming effects on their owner. Just by stroking, sitting next to or playing with a pet can give owning a chance to relax and calm their minds. Caring for a pet also gives your day purpose and reward, and a sense of achievement. It also helps you feel valuable and needed.

We can definitely conclude by saying that a support systems for people suffering from mental health diseases can highly impact their lives positively. It is necessary for one to find a good support system or an environment where one feels motivated to even carry on daily chores that feel difficult for a person suffering from mental health issues. 

October 21, 2020 - Comments Off on September 2020: Digital 50.50, third edition released

September 2020: Digital 50.50, third edition released

Online Campaigns and Initiatives

Digital 50.50 Third Edition

digital 50.50Third Edition of DRF’s feminist e-magazine was launched in September. It covered articles on how individuals and organisations have been navigating the digital spaces during the global pandemic. A very interesting article discussed the transition of civil society organisations and people from other professions to working in the digital. Another article used Taylor Swift’s songs from her new album, Folklore, to talk about dating apps during the lockdown period and is a must read. The magazine can be accessed here.

UN Women A to Z of Cyber Harassment

DRF with the support of UN Women conducted an awareness raising campaign on online violence through social media posts for three months which also included dissecting cyber harassment and its myths through A to Z of cyber harassment. The posts are available on DRF’s Facebook page and Twitter.

#NoHonourInKilling

While hearing a jail petition for leave to appeal in the case titled 'Muhammad Abbas vs The State', the Supreme Court of Pakistan made observations regarding honour killings in the country. DRF’s campaign ‘#NoHonourInKilling’ aims to shine a light on this and highlight some of the most powerful sections of the order.

honor killing

#PrivacyIsARight: A Digital Campaign for VPNs

DRF conducted an awareness raising campaign through social media on the right to privacy in Pakistan’s context. This included a week-long series of posts discussing encryption, VPNs and details of international treaties with privacy implications that Pakistan is signatory to, as well as a panel discussion titled ‘Understanding VPNs: A Deep Dive into Privacy in Pakistan’. This was cast live via DRF’s Facebook page and is available for viewing there.

#ActivismInPandemic

DRF has launched the #ActivismInPandemic campaign highlighting the important work human rights defenders and journalists have been doing during COVID19. The campaign aims to share experiences of journalists and HRDs during the pandemic and also highlight the importance of managing work and stress during these testing times.

DRF launched the Digital Rapid Fire Chat

DRF launched a new initiative, Digital RapidFire Chat, to discuss issues around online freedom of expression and press freedom in the country. The Digital RapidFire was based on the idea that with the lockdown and the digital space being loaded with talk shows, workshops and webinars, DRF wanted to create a space where panelists could discuss serious, and heavy-loaded issues in a fun, interactive way and through some 'burning questions' that also reduces the cognitive load of the audiences. The first Chat was scheduled for 11th September, for which the decided format could not be implemented as the Motorway rape incident happened so the topic was changed to “Ab Aur Nahin: Ending violence against women's bodies”. For the second Chat, we asked questions from our panelists on  “How feminists in Pakistan deal with online hate?”. A hamper from our team was sent to the panelist who answered more questions, and unmasked the truth behind these issues in a non-triggering and humorous way.

Policy initiatives

DRF part of coalition with International Media Foundation

DRF has joined the coalition with International Media Foundation which focuses on working on journalist safety online and offline. The coalition and DRF has been raising a voice and condemning against online harassment and attacks on journalists during COVID19.

The Adal Aur Sehat Project and DRF collaborate for a session on Cyber Crime Laws, Prevention and Remedies

 

DRF collaborates with the Adal Aur Sehat Project in a session focusing on Cyber Crime Laws, Prevention and Remedies for the masses. DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke to Adal aur Sehar on the topic and highlighted the legal remedies available to people to counter cyber crime in the country.

Helpline August Stats

Cyber Harassment Helpline received 309 complaints in the month of August. In comparison to the previous months during lockdown, this number has decreased. It shows that there was a spike in the cases of online violence especially blackmailing through non consensual use of information and images during lockdown which has now decreased a little. Another observed trend is of social engineering through which people are coerced into sharing their personal details like National Identity Card number, WhatsApp code, bank account details and, e-wallet details making them susceptible to hacking and financial fraud.

Statement on Shaheena Shaheen’s brutal murder

Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights issued a statement to strongly condemn the murder of Shaheena Shaheen and demands that there should be adequate follow-up by the state to ensure that the accused is prosecuted and a possible settlement does not impact the prosecution. The statement was signed by around 60 journalists and three women journalists’ coalitions. It can be accessed here.

Media Coverage

Step by Step Guide on How to Report Cyber Harassment in Pakistan

Technology Times covered the step by step guide to report cyber harassment in Pakistan. DRF’s Nighat Dad explained the forms of cyber harassment in online spaces and how to report them to law enforcement agencies.

Read the full article here:

New Controls on the Internet in Pakistan

DRF’s Nighat Dad Dad spoke to NayaDaur on New Controls on the Internet in Pakistan. Raza Rumi moderated the session and Nighat Dad highlighted the recent controls on the internet and how social media companies and the government need to be held accountable for these controls on the internet.

Watch the full discussion here:

Events and Sessions

#MediaFreedom

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke with Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon on how important it is to strengthen free media and tackle intimidation of female journalists.

Data Privacy and Public Health – All Fair in Love and War?

DRF took part in a webinar in collaboration with the Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture (SIUT). The webinar sought to focus on the use of private health data during public health emergencies raises ethical concerns, especially in Pakistan where oversight and regulation of such processes is questionable. The webinar explored the following questions: 1) Do healthcare establishments (private and public) understand what is at stake when private health information is being shared/ monitored? 2) Does the public fully understand it? 3) Are public health officials and government departments cognisant of the consequences of these technologies?

Link to discussion: https://www.facebook.com/cbec.siut/videos/684879222129298.

Post COVID Futures: Can technology build architecture for democratic governance?'

DRF participated in a policy roundtable on the role of technologies in a post-Covid future on September 29th, exploring issues of access and the role technology plays in democratic governance. The roundtable included experts from the tech and media industry as well as members of civil society.

DRF takes part in the IAF seminar, “Making Magic Seminar 2020”

DRF team member, Arslan Athar, took part in an IAF Seminar, “Making Magic”, which was an intensive training about digital facilitation and online campaigns. The seminar was a week long, with participants from all over the world, and experts from the field of event and campaign management coming in to speak to the cohort.

DRF takes part in an online program organized by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF)

The FNF organized a visiting program on "Propaganda, Automation and Digital Politics" which was conducted digitally from the 7th to 10th September 2020.

“Has The PTA Swiped Left On Love?”

DRF spoke to Atiya Abbas, who wrote for our feminist e-magazine, Digital 50.50, about her experiences speaking to people to Tinder for research. Following the ban on Tinder and other dating apps in Pakistan, we asked Atiya about the effects of the ban on Pakistani society and what Tinder really meant to a lot of people, who used it for networking, rather than just dating.

DRF Cyber Harassment Helpline Webinar Series

DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline conducted a series of webinars ‘Deconstructing Cyber Harassment’ with the support of UN women to discuss digital safety practices, legal remedies and psychological impact of online violence. Our DRF team of expert guest speakers each contributed their unique experiences and expertise; focusing on strategies for listeners to better protect themselves to reduce risk and vulnerability in the backdrop of increased harassment and violence offline and online.

Jinnah Institute Policy Roundtable Post COVID Fututes: Technology and Social Integration in South Asia

DRF participated in the Jinnah Institute Policy Roundtable on Post COVID Futures: Technology and Social Integration in South Asia. DRF’s Nighat Dad focused on how technology has enabled positive governance and participation in politics and also highlighted the integration of technology in South Asia.

Facts Not Filters - FPU

DRF is collaborating with Free Press Unlimited on a project  - Facts Not Filters - in which international students of Royal Dutch Arts Academy will be exploring the different geographical contexts, including Pakistan, in which journalists work. DRF’s Program Manager, Maryam Saeed, and two journalists from the Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights, Sabin Agha and Umaima Ahmed, explained the context of Pakistan and the challenges that women journalists face because of their profession and gender.

#KeepItOn Webinar

DRF participated in the webinar Fighting against Internet Shutdowns in 2020 through strategic advocacy. Nighat Dad of DRF spoke with a panel of experts about internet shutdowns in 2020 and how these shutdowns are becoming frequent. They highlighted how these shutdowns are unconstitutional and must be put to a stop.

Workplace Safety- Creating Safer and Inclusive Work Cultures

DRF participated in the Workplace Safety Creating Safer and Inclusive Work Cultures. Nighat Dad shed light on the workplace harassment act and highlighted that implementation of the law is important along with the importance of reform within the legislation.

Digital Detox and Self Care

An online training was conducted by Saba Sabir from DRF with female digital journalists from our Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights on digital detox and self-care. The training focused on identifying digital burnout and implementing strategies for well-being in the digital space. Through the training, DRF intended to empower journalists to create more mindful, meaningful, well-rounded lives both online and off while not letting their profession be affected.

 

Virginity Tests and Assessment of Victim’s Character in Rape and Sexual Assault Cases: Legal Perspectives

This panel discussion was arranged by the LUMS Law Alumni Association in collaboration with the LUMS Law Journal. Our team member moderated the group discussion. Video is available on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8AGwN5s9eA

Understanding VPNS #PrivacyIsARight

DRF conducted a session on Understanding VPNs on the 7th of September, 2020 with three esteemed panelists. We had Usama Khilji of Bolo Bhi, Hera Hussain, CEO of CHAYN Organization and Mubariz Siddiqi, General Counsel for Sarmayacar with Zainab Durrani (Project Manager, DRF) moderating the panel.

The discussion revolved around the workings of VPN, myths and lies associated with it, usage and its types, the call for registration of VPNs by PTA and the impact of regulating VPNs, from a human rights and business perspective.

Tackling Misinformation during times of COVID19

DRF conducted two sessions on Tackling Misinformation during times of COVID19 on the 23rd and 25th of September. The session was conducted with journalists and other relevant stakeholders where a much needed conversation took place around how misinformation has increased during the pandemic. The session was possible with the help and support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF).

Hamara Internet Online Safety of Young Adults Sessions

DRF conducted a series of sessions under the Hamara Internet program on Online Safety of Young Adults in Pakistan.The sessions took place with young adults in which different themes on online safety and violence were highlighted. The sessions were conducted by DRF’s youth ambassadors who discussed different themes like online harassment, data protection, privacy, cyber bullying, online safety and fake news in detail. The youth ambassadors were divided into two groups and a total of 8 sessions took place for the participants who were from across Pakistan. The sessions were possible with the help and support of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF).

Training on Online Safety training with ASR

DRF conducted the three day residency training on Online Safety with team ASR focusing on how the organization should keep their data safe and how they should protect themselves online.

Online Session Cyber Security Fatima Jinnah University Session

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke in an online session with Fatima Jinnah University on Cyber Security. She presented the DRF helpline as a resource to cyber harassment and also focused on keeping privacy settings strong on social media. The session was attended by 170 students from Fatima Jinnah University.

Online Safety Training with HRD’s in Sindh

 

 

DRF’s Nighat Dad conducted an Online Safety session with human rights defenders in Sindh highlighting the importance of privacy online and also introducing the cyber harassment helpline as a resource to counter violence online.

 

 

 

Lincoln’s Corner Session - Janat

On September 23, Jannat Fazal program manager cyber harassment helpline moderated a session on why i didn't report at Lincoln's corner sindh. The session focused on the reasons that prevent assault victims from coming forward with their complaints. It also focused on the systemic oppression  of the authorities that dissuades victims.

COVID19 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. Because of the observed increase in cyber harassment complaints during COVID 19 lockdown, DRF had made its cyber harassment helpline operational 24/7 for three months and now that the lockdown is lifted and a decrease in complaints has been observed, the helpline is back to functioning as per usual.

Contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us on helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk between 9 am to 5 pm (monday - friday). You can also reach out to us on our social media channels.

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

October 10, 2020 - Comments Off on Understanding What Anxiety Looks Like

Understanding What Anxiety Looks Like

Written by Saba Sabir

On this mental health day we would like to break the stigma associated with mental wellness. Stress is a real problem that negatively impacts health and safety.

We often do not realize that we’re stressed until it begins to consume us and we aren’t always good at identifying signs of stress and burnout in ourselves. In fact, sometimes it is easier for another person to point them out. It is important then to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stress and any changes we might experience in our minds, bodies, and routines. Mentioned below are some signs and symptoms which are indicative of high levels of stress and anxiety. We can then work towards managing stress after understanding how it manifests in our bodies.

October 10, 2020 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation Expresses Concern Over Recent Ban On Popular Social Media App, TikTok

Digital Rights Foundation Expresses Concern Over Recent Ban On Popular Social Media App, TikTok

Earlier today, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned the popular video app, TikTok in Pakistan. According to the press release posted on Twitter by the PTA, the Authority claims to be acting on a large number of complaints about content on the app ‘from different segments of society’. The PTA also claims that despite multiple notices, the app continued to post indecent content, finally resulting in the ban of the app. Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is greatly disturbed by this rising tide of online censorship in Pakistan and exercise of arbitrary powers by the PTA in attempting to control free expression on the internet.

The PTA, on July 20, 2020, sent its final notice to TikTok over concerns of ‘immoral and indecent’ content on the app. At the same time, the PTA had banned the live streaming app, ‘Bigo Live’. DRF condemned the move at the time. As an organization that works on digital rights, DRF finds these developments extremely distressing and disturbing. These bans are a blatant violation of freedom of speech online. This ban comes at a time when the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules, 2020 have been ‘ratified’ by the Cabinet without any transparency with the public. These Rules will further strengthen the ability of the PTA to remove and block access to an online content which goes against the ‘interest of Islam, integrity, security and defence of Pakistan, public order, public health, public safety, decency and morality’ as well as content that is deemed to constitute an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code or the Code of Criminal Procedure.

TikTok has been widely popular among young Pakistanis, downloaded around 39 million times in the country, who used to use the app as a way to express themselves. The app allowed for instant virality and popularity, which gave a lot of young Pakistanis, who lacked access to the ‘entertainment industry’, a level playing field to showcase their talent. Significantly, TikTok was a medium of expression for women, gender minorities and individuals from all social backgrounds as many content creators challenged racial/ethnic stereotypes, patriarchal attitudes and class barriers. Additionally, the app also democratized access to the entertainment world and helped to create a healthy ecosystem of digital content. TikTok helped content creators on the app enjoy a new stream of income, thereby creating a new segment of the digital economy of Pakistan.

The PTA, on its pulpit for moral policing, has used vague terms such as ‘morality’ and ‘decency’ to regulate the internet without any transparency and accountability. As DRF has pointed out before, the Authority has failed to mount any objective standard for these terms and used it as a tool to morally police the internet.

A complete and blanket ban of TikTok is a disproportionate response to blocking potentially objectionable and harmful content on the platform. In fact, TikTok has been more than compliant to PTA’s requests as Pakistan is among the top five markets in terms of content removals over violations of its community guidelines. Furthermore, the company also issued its community guidelines and standards in Urdu. It is obvious that the PTA’s concern is not the safety of users or removal of harmful content as women TikTokers reaching out to DRF for months were never extended any form of support by the government, rather the ban is a tool to exert more control over online spaces by bullying social media companies into complying with user data requests and compliance for data removal requests for political content.

This is a crossroads for digital rights and online freedoms in Pakistan, we must push back to resist attempts to control our online spaces. The draconian legal regime imposed by the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 needs to be dismantled, particularly the removal of provisions such as section 37 which allows for wide powers to remove and block content as well as removal of section 20 (criminal defamation) which is used to silence women, journalists and victims of sexual violence time and time again. The time has come for the average internet user to stand up for their rights and resist!

September 25, 2020 - Comments Off on What Is Emotional Regulation And Why Is It So Important?

What Is Emotional Regulation And Why Is It So Important?

By Kashfa Zafar

Have you ever felt hangry? If you’re human, chances are that you’ve been so hungry at some point that you were extremely irritated by everything and everyone around, but you were probably too agitated to realize that your bad mood was the result of a fairly common human experience – hunger. Emotionally heightened experiences can be really overwhelming resulting in cognitive overload; Your mind might respond by ‘shutting down,’ suspending your abilities of rational judgment. That is why for someone observing your behavior, you might seem like a less-than-stable individual. Of course, you know that you’re not some irrational person but in the case of experiencing ‘hanger,’ even you might be surprised by the things you say or do without realizing the reasons behind your seemingly ecstatic behavior. If only you knew that you were simply hungry, and the solution to your troubles was just a refrigerator door away. Wouldn’t that make your life easier?

Well, the good news is that there’s definitely a way. It’s called emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is the ability to exercise control over your emotional state so you’re in a better position to respond appropriately to the demands of a given situation. Emotional regulation skills obviously extend far beyond the scope of simply experiencing hanger. These skills are positively correlated to your social and emotional intelligence and can provide effective management skills for those experiencing depression and anxiety. 

The key in developing emotional regulation skills is to cultivate and practice mindful awareness. When you find yourself in an emotionally provocative situation, remove yourself physically from that negative space and redirect your attention towards what you’re feeling physically. Notice how your body feels. Does your chest feel tighter? Is your heart racing? Are you experiencing a headache? Whatever the case maybe, you can applaud yourself for practicing what is known as cognitive reappraisal. Instead of focusing too much on your negative thoughts and feelings, you have now managed to divert your mind towards how these negative effects present themselves physically in your body. When you do this, you are regaining control over your judgment and actions and not letting your emotions drive your thoughts and behavior. Cognitive reappraisal is a simple yet highly effective tool used in many different types of psychotherapies. It the ability to reframe your cognitions or alter your way of thinking. So, in the case above, you have reframed your experience of the situation because instead of focusing on your negative feelings and thoughts that might have negatively affected your perception of the given circumstances, you’ve concentrated your attention to somewhat neutral bodily sensations. 

Now that you’ve rerouted your thoughts from the situation onto yourself, the next step is to explore your feelings. Simply acknowledging that you’re feeling ‘bad’ or ‘mad’ is only a start. Dig a little deeper and notice what kind of negative emotions you’re feeling. If possible, write them down. Ask yourself what emotion might be masking itself in the form of anger. Sadness? Guilt? Shame? Hopelessness? For this, you have to be honest with yourself. Execute the same mindfulness that you practiced when noticing how your body felt. Without judging what comes up for you, identify both the surface-level as well as hidden emotions. By practicing this exercise over time, you’ll not only be able to develop and refine your emotional awareness, but you’ll also be able to tell what kind of emotional experience you’re having by simply noticing how your body feels. Each emotion has a physiological reaction in the body, and because you would have monitored the physical manifestation of the identified emotion, you’ll know how to regulate your behavior without being emotionally flooded. 

Once you’ve become regular in the practice of emotional regulation, you’ll feel you have greater self-control even in the face of the most pressing and pressurizing situations. Instead of letting your emotions control you, you’ll be able to take charge of your life, be it personal, social or professional.

September 17, 2020 - Comments Off on August 2020: DRF launches the Digital Detox Campaign

August 2020: DRF launches the Digital Detox Campaign

Online Campaigns and Initiatives

#HamaraInternet #MehfoozInternet

Under the Cyber Harassment Helpline advocacy campaigns, a comic strip with impactful graphics was released online which focused on victim blaming of cyber harassment. The comic strip highlighted how victim blaming decreases the likelihood that survivors will share their traumatic experience and seek support. It called on the audiences to take action against this attitude and shift the blame from the victim to the perpetrator.

In order to combat cyber bullying, which ruins people’s online experiences, we need to understand why people do this so that we are able to design our strategies accordingly. DRF released an infographic to shed light on some of these reasons.

DRF also launched another campaign called 'A to Z of Cyber Harassment', in which we unpack everything that makes up cyber harassment and what we need to know to protect ourselves online.

DRF’s Digital Detox Campaign

As part of DRF’s ongoing advocacy around raising awareness on cyber harassment, it shared and encouraged its audience online to participate in Bingos on various digital rights issues. One of the bingos, ‘how many of these steps do you take for your digital detox?’ had the highest number of interactions and retweets. It was also well-received on Instagram with many followers self-reflecting and pledging to do a better digital detox for their well-being. Another bingo focused on what entails cyber bullying behavior as a first step to understand what people need to do to make online spaces safe for all.

       

#ActivismInPandemic

     

DRF has launched the #ActivismInPandemic campaign highlighting the important work human rights defenders and journalists have been doing during COVID19. The campaign aims to share experiences of journalists and HRDs during the pandemic and also highlight the importance of managing work and stress during these testing times.

Policy initiatives

Cyber Harassment Helpline July Statistics

Cyber Harassment Helpline received 697 complaints in the month of July. In comparison to the previous months prior lockdown , this is a huge number. It shows a spike in the cases of online violence especially blackmailing through non consensual use of information and images. Another observed trend is of social engineering through which people are coerced into sharing their personal details like National Identity Card number, WhatsApp code, bank account details and, e-wallet details making them susceptible to hacking and financial fraud.

   

Media Coverage

Pakistani journalists stand up against online harassment

Ramsha Jahangir, our member of the Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights highlighted how online spaces have been weaponized recently. In DRF’s study ‘Fostering Open Spaces in Pakistan’ it was found that women in journalism and activism were subjected to online harassment and abuse.

Read the full article here around harassment that women journalists have been facing:
https://ipi.media/pakistani-journalists-stand-up-against-online-harassment/

Pakistan tells Youtube to block ‘objectionable’ content’

DRF’s Nighat Dad shared her thoughts around Pakistan’s statement to Youtube regarding objectionable content on the platforms.

Read the full article here:
https://news.yahoo.com/pakistan-tells-youtube-block-objectionable-102002066.html

DRF on Coffee Table with Mina Malik Hussain on domestic violence

29 August 2020: A discussion on domestic violence

DRF’s Dania Mukhtar participated on Indus News on the show Coffee Table with Mina Malik Hussain with Kanwal Ahmed (Founder of Soul Sisters) around domestic violence. Dania highlighted the cases the cyber harassment helpline has received around domestic violence and also mentioned Ab Aur Nahin as a resource to victims of domestic violence.

Link to show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofKQe-cOe0g&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0fJAYu4G3YSGr9eBTZja5QhBfodwg-l8XLq0LfGF4F6bnm6CS4KsSk42g

Events and Sessions

DRF on International Youth Day on webinar on Breaking Barriers for Meaningful Youth Engagement

DRF’s Nighat Dad shared her thoughts on International Youth Day on ‘Breaking Barriers for Meaningful Youth Engagement’. Nighat highlighted on the digital dividend to engage youth across the country and globally. She also highlighted the struggle it takes for women to reclaim spaces.

DRF on NHRF’s discussion on protection of HRDs and their work

DRF participated in a discussion hosted by the Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF) around protection of HRDs and their work. Nighat Dad participated in the discussion and shed light on the online safety trainings the organization has conducted due to NHRF’s help and support.

DRF at Right To Information: Need, Use and Status on 14th August

DRF participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Senior Journalists Forum on ‘Right to Information: Need, Use and Status’. The webinar took place on 14th August and highlighted the importance of right to information and its current use and status within the country.

DRF at “Digital Pakistan – The Future of Politics: Lessons and Opportunities” on 21st August

DRF participated in the webinar ‘Digital Pakistan- The Future of Politics: Lessons and Opportunities’ on 21st August. The session was organized by the Senior Journalists Forum and focused on the use of digital technologies for politics and mobilization.

DRF hosted a tweetchat on ‘How Activism has changed post COVID19’

DRF organized a tweetchat on 26th August 2020, around how activism has changed post COVID19. The participants in the tweetchat were Nighat Dad (lawyer, human rights activist and Facebook oversight board member), Imaan Mazari (lawyer and human rights activist), Moneeza Ahmed (feminist, humanistic therapist and an activist focusing on community development) and Sabin Muzaffar (founder and executive director of Ananke- a digital platform empowering women through awareness, advocacy and education). The tweetchat was an extension of DRF’s online campaign on #ActivismInPandemic and highlighted the key issues activists have been facing during COVID19 and what social media companies can do in order to protect them.

DRF at ‘Implementing SDG 16.10.1 (Protection of Women Journalist and Media Workers) for ensuring gender response media environment in Pakistan on 28th August

DRF participated in the Sustainable Development Goal 16.10.1 which focused on  protection of women journalists and media workers on the 28th of August. DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke about the threats female journalists are facing in the cyber world and also highlighted the importance of a gender responsive media environment in the session.

DRF in Provincial Consultation on Gender Bases Violence- Strengthening the Response

DRF participated in an ‘Provincial Consultation on Gender Based Violence – Strengthening the Response’ under the Awaz II program organized by Peace & Justice Network (PJN) held on 26 August 2020. The purpose of the consultation was to identify specific advocacy points to prevent and address gender-based violence in Punjab. In addition to assessing the legislative and institutional frameworks, the consultation also examined how prevalent social norms can be changed by both improving women’s access to legal processes regarding the registration and prosecution of crimes as well as addressing public shame. The deliberations of the consultation would be used to inform the advocacy agenda for the Aawaz Provincial Forum.

Digital Safety Conference by LACAS and DRF

August 7  - August 8

DRF and LACAS, in collaboration, hosted the "Digital Safety Conference"  to create a better understanding of how the digital world works and its impact on students. Moreover, bring students, teachers and parents on the same page of how to deal with the pressing issues related to the digital world. The event was held virtually and included representatives from a social media company, legal specialists, mental health counselors and student speakers. The two panels in the conference included “Cyberbullying, its Impact and being a Responsible Netizens” and “Parenting in the age of the internet”.

Facebook Live Session: Will banning the internet fix the mental health pandemic?

Our mental health expert, Saba Sabir, conducted an informative live session on the link between online spaces and mental health. We explored the possibility that while online spaces can result in tangible mental health harms, it is also a space for connection and expression particularly at a time where we are socially distancing. The session can be accessed here.

DRF conducted a session with Dastak on Online Safety

DRF conducted a semi-advanced online safety session with the team members of Dastak Charitable Organization on the 7th of August, 2020.

The session covered apps and tools that can be used to increase safety in the digital space.

DRF organized a session with AWAM on Online Safety

DRF organized a second session with the Faislabad-based organization AWAM as a part of its interaction with civil society organizations on the 25th of August, 2020.

The session covered apps and tools that can be used to increase safety in the digital space.

DRF’s session with WISE on Cyber Harassment and Online Safety

DRF collaborated with WISE on the 7th of August and hosted a session around the internet and online safety. The session was attended by female students, teachers and community activists. The session focused on cyber harassment and introduced the cyber harassment helpline as a resource to the participants along with other intitiaves like Ab aur nahin (providing legal pro bono service to domestic abuse and harassment victims)  and IWF portal (to report child sexual abuse online).

Privacy Laws in Pakistan

Zainab Durrani from DRF participated in a session of PCL Talks hosted by Pakistan College of Law and LEAP Pakistan that covered privacy laws in Pakistan. The discussion centered around privacy as a concept in general, as a right and now a digital necessity. Zainab discussed the cultural connotations of privacy and DRF’s position on the current Personal Data Protection Bill.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=691556761717106&ref=watch_permalink

Gender sensitization session with journalists

DRF conducted a two-day online workshop on 9th-10th August 2020 on gender-sensitive reporting for women journalists and content creators. The workshop was attended by 14 participants. It also had a dedicated session on covering covid-19 from a gender-sensitive perspective. The training included a practical component after completion that required all participants to submit a short story covered from a gender-sensitive perspective.

Data Privacy in Asia

Our Project Manager Zainab Durrani participated in a tweet chat organized by Undatify Me that looked into the current privacy laws and regulations in Asia. The chat covered any issues with these laws, campaigns and movements that converged on the overall theme of privacy and the existing resources for people who want to learn more about these themes and the need for more such resources and reliable literature to be developed around it.

DRF with the support of FNF hosted two sessions of the Hamara Internet Online Safety Program

DRF hosted two sessions with the support of FNF with young adults in the Hamara Internet Online Safety Program. The sessions were conducted by DRF’s five youth ambassadors who focused on privacy and data protection of young adults in the country. The youth ambassadors were divided into teams and Team A conducted the session on 21st August with their group whereas Team B conducted their session on 22nd August with their respective group.

Sessions with Anew and FNF

Our partner FNF provided our team members with the wonderful opportunity to attend a 4-part training course with the team at Anew where they learnt about and discussed meaningful and impactful engagement, especially given the myriad of restrictions with conducting sessions and interacting with stakeholders and audience. These sessions took place in the last two weeks of August and were just the need of the hour for our trainers.

COVID19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

Because of the observed increase in cyber harassment complaints during COVID 19 lockdown,  DRF made its cyber harassment helpline operational 24/7 for three months. The cyber harassment helpline is offering the services free of cost for anyone who calls in or reaches out to us via social media or email. These include legal aid, the digital help desk, and mental health counseling. During these three months, our toll-free number is  accessible every day of the week, from 9 AM to 5 PM, our mental health counselors are working from 10 AM to 9 PM each day as well. Our mental health counselors are trained professionals providing free of cost counseling to women and marginalized communities. During all other hours of the day, our team is attending to complaints and queries through online platforms.

Contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us on helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk. You can also reach out to us on our social media channels.

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 amterial in three different languaged- English, Urdu and Pashto. The reports will then be assessed by trained IWF analysts in the UK.

www.report.iwf.org.uk/pk

September 14, 2020 - Comments Off on Women Journalists and Allies Express Outrage at the Murder of Shaheena Shaheen and Demand Concrete Measures of Ensure Safety of Journalists

Women Journalists and Allies Express Outrage at the Murder of Shaheena Shaheen and Demand Concrete Measures of Ensure Safety of Journalists

The news of Shaheena Shaheen’s brutal murder has greatly disturbed the community of media practitioners across the country and lays bare the structural insecurity women face in this country. Shaheena was an accomplished journalist based in Balochistan and was shot dead inside her home on September 5, 2020 in Turbat.[1] Shaheena was a host on PTV and the editor of a local magazine. She was outspoken for issues facing women, in her profession and community. Her murder is a grim reminder that women journalists face innumerable barriers and threats on the basis of their gender.

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist in, ranking 145 out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.[2] The challenges that women journalists face cannot be neatly captured by the discourse of journalist security and media freedoms. Women journalists are subjected to a ‘double threat’ that is both professional and personal in nature. The overall lack of media freedoms and violence against journalists impacts women journalists, however because of their gender, women journalists face a personal threat to their bodies and well-being as well. Shaheena’s murder, reportedly by her husband, is being characterised as a ‘domestic matter’. We strongly believe that the personal is political, and for women journalists the challenges they face in their personal lives--the double shift due to inequitable distribution of care and domestic work, violence within the home, harassment in work and public places, online vitriol directed at them--impacts their work and can often put their lives in danger. Women journalists do not shed their gender when entering professional engagements, rather their gender often predominantly defines their professional life.

We also remember the brutal murder of Urooj Iqbal in November 2019 who was also shot by her husband outside her workplace for allegedly not agreeing to leave her job.[3] Despite the fact that the murder was condemned by journalists across the world,[4] her family eventually settled the matter outside of court and did not pursue a case against her husband.[5] This case shows that when the perpetrator of violence is a family member, the likelihood of settling the matter outside of court, often due to the pressure exerted on the family, is high. Since the passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences in the name or pretext of Honour) Act, 2016, cases of honour killings can be pursued by the state under section 299 of the Pakistan Penal Code regardless of whether the family forgives the perpetrator or not, but the implementation of the law is inconsistent. The

cold-blooded murders of Urooj and Shaheena are crimes against society as a whole, they should be pursued by the state, particularly in a country where crimes against women are vastly underreported. Pakistan is ranked 151 out of 153 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index Report 2020.[1]

On September 8th, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, has noted that the Pakistani Government take “immediate, concrete steps to ensure the protection of journalists and human rights defenders who have been subjected to threats, [...] the need for prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations with a view to ensuring accountability in cases of violence and killings.”[2]

These crimes take place in the backdrop of daily challenges that women journalists face. Recently, 150 women journalists issued a letter calling out the online harassment that they are subjected to and the ways in which political parties weaponise digital spaces and gender attacks to silence critical women journalists.[3] The concerns that women journalists face should be taken seriously and acted upon, by the media outlets as well as by the government.  State inaction sends a message to women in the journalist community that they are on their own and in the long term discourages young women from joining the profession.

We, the undersigned, demand that:

  1. While we are encouraged that the Ministry of Human Rights has taken notice of Shaheena’s case, we demand that there should be adequate follow-up by the state to ensure that the accused is prosecuted and a possible settlement does not impact the prosecution;
  2. The state prosecution challenges the pardon by the family in Urooj Iqbal’s case in the respective court and pursues the case with the state as a party; and
  3. The government takes immediate and urgent steps to pass the Journalist Protection Bill, with added provisions which recognise the gendered threats that women journalists face and institute accountability mechanisms to mitigate and address them.

SIGNED BY:

  1. Xari Jalil, Dawn
  2. Umaima Ahmed - The News on Sunday, Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights,
  3. Ghareeda Farooqi - News One
  4. Afia Salam - Freelancer
  5. Reema Omer - Lawyer
  6. Maryam Saeed - e Feminist Magazine 50-50
  7. Reem Khurshid - Dawn
  8. Amina Usman - Urdupoint
  9. Fahmidah Yousfi  - Rava.pk
  10. Rabia Noor - ARY News
  11. Najia Ashar - GNMI
  12. Nighat Dad - Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights
  13. Shmyla Khan - Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights
  14. Sahar Habib Ghazi, Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors
  15. Ailia Zehra - Naya Daur
  16. Alia Chughtai -
  17. Rabbia Arshad , freelance documentary and filmmaker
  18. Lubna Jerar Naqvi Journalist
  19. Sabah Malik, Arab News
  20. Nida Mujahid Hussain, Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights,
  21. Sabahat Khan - Freelancer - DW
  22. Maleeha Mengal - Social Media Strategist (Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre)
  23. Moniba iftikhar  - Associated Press of Pakistan
  24. Naheed Akhtar - APP
  25. Tooba Masood - Freelance journalist
  26. Laiba Zainab - Sujag
  27. Sadaf Khan, Media Matters for Democracy
  28. Kiran Nazish, journalist and founder CFWIJ
  29. Katarzyna Mierzejewska, The Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ)
  30. Rabia Bugti - Dialogue Pakistan
  31. Jalila haider -  Independent Urdu
  32. Tanzila Mazhar - GTV
  33. Tehreem Azeem - Freelance journalist
  34. Marian Sharaf Joseph - Freelance Journalist
  35. Luavut Zahid - Freelance journalist
  36. Mahim Maher - SAMAA TV
  37. Maham Javaid
  38. Neelum Nawab - DIN News
  39. Zeenat Bibi - Freelance Journalist from KP
  40. Ambreen Khan - content editor Khabarwalay news
  41. Annam Lodhi, Freelancer
  42. Maryam Nawaz- Geo news
  43. Ayesha Saghir - Producer Express News
  44. Asma Sherazi - TV show Aaj News
  45. Afifa Nasar Ullah - Reporter, City News
  46. Haya Fatima Iqbal - Documentary Filmmaker
  47. Wajiha Naz Soharwardi - CPNE
  48. Sahar Saeed - Neo TV Network
  49. Kiran Rubab khan -  Reporter, 7 news
  50. Imrana Komal - Senior Multimedia Journalist, Free lines
  51. Manal Khan - Independent Writer
  52. Zoya Anwer - Independent Multimedia Journalist
  53. Shaista Hakim - Reporter khyber News Swat
  54. Hina durrani, APP
  55. Sabrina Toppa, Freelance
  56. Shafaq Saba - Freelance Journalist from KP
  57. Mehak Mudasir -  Freelance Journalist from KP
  58. Zivile Diminskyte - Engagement coordinator at CFWIJ

Supporting Bodies:

  1. Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR)
  2. Women In Media Alliance Pakistan (WIMA)
  3. The Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ)
[1] Mohammad Zafar, ‘Journalist Shaheena Shaheen shot dead in Turbat’, The Express Tribune, September 5, 2020, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2262666/journalist-shaheena-shaheen-shot-dead-in-turbat.

[1] https://rsf.org/en/pakistan.

[1] ‘Woman journalist shot dead’, Dawn, November 26, 2019, https://www.dawn.com/news/1518815.

[1] ‘Pakistan: Woman journalist killed for not quitting job’, November 26, 2019, The Coalition for Women in Journalism, https://womeninjournalism.org/cfwij-press-statements/pakistan-woman-journalist-killed-for-not-quitting-job-px7w7.

[1] ‘عروج اقبال کا قتل: ’اپنے کام کی وجہ سے پاکستان میں قتل ہونے والی پہلی خاتون صحافی' کا مقدمہ اختتام پذیر’, BBC Urdu, August 12, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/urdu/pakistan-53747402.

[1] “Mind the 100 Year Gap’, 2019, World Economic Forum, https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality.

[1] “Press priefing notes on Pakistan”, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 8 September 2020, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26216&LangID=E.

[1] https://qalamcamera.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/TOGETHER-AGAINST-DIGITAL-ABUSE-pdf.pdf.

September 2, 2020 - Comments Off on Cyber Bullying And Its Effects On Teenagers/Adolescents

Cyber Bullying And Its Effects On Teenagers/Adolescents

By Sara Israa 

Cyberbullying or cyber harassment are no new terms. They are now commonly experienced by people who are active on social media and who use online spaces. Cyberbullying could be defined in many ways but basically it is when someone intentionally sends hurtful messages and pictures, spreads false information, threatens or blackmails you, hacks your social media, or impersonates you. It is something which is persistent, which is probably meant to intimidate the victim. The perpetrator might be known or unknown.

With the influx of technology, social media, and unlimited access to internet services, cyber bullying is on the rise. It won’t be wrong to say that online spaces are now becoming unsafe day by day, since we are not aware of the predators behind the screens. The peak of cyber bullying is now actually taking a toll on mental health. Teenagers are the most common victim of this since they belong to a vulnerable part of society and they also excessively use online spaces. It is disturbing because of its public and uncontrollable nature.

The teenagers who are cyber bullied experience a range of emotions such as increased anxiety, low and sad mood, school absenteeism, decreased self-esteem, difficulty focusing, and in extreme situations even suicide. Cyber bullying and adolescent mental health hold a strong relation together. There has been vast research that validates that harassment on the internet introduces feelings of guilt, worry, and depression. This at times aggravated since many teenagers have a hard time communicating. This results in self-blame which might be a reason for them choosing suicide. 

Cyber victimization at times also leads to teenagers isolating themselves and spending their time worrying over the consequences of being shamed online. Similarly, children who experience cyber harassment may experience anger outbursts and may have relationship problems later in life. Cyber victims are more likely to experience somatic problems, including difficulty sleeping, headaches, and stomachaches, as compared to their unaffected peers. Many children in order to overcome or get away with post shame of cyber harassment may also indulge in substance abuse. 

 Unfortunately, most teenagers are unaware of digital safety hence they fall prey to cyber bullies. Also, a vast majority of research shows that in the past decade cyber harassment has become so prevalent that it is not considered a public health concern. 

With cyber harassment showing a strong correlation with adverse effects of mental health it is high time now that we make the youth more aware of cyber safety. We at the individual and collective levels should try to make online safety more accessible. There is a dire need for mental health counselors to address the concerns of cyber victims and provide them with platforms where they can vent out and word out their perspectives and thoughts without being judged. 

There are some ways which adults or parents can use to save their children from being cyber bullied. Firstly, be empathetic and listen to your child so that he/she can confide in you without fear. As a parent or adult, you can make sure that your child’s profile is private and not public, limit the number of friends your child adds on social media and allow only those to be added which he/she knows in real life, ensure about passwords safekeeping and ensure that your child knows how to report, block or delete someone who is harassing them. Get them engaged in offline activities. Remember, the less time they spend on their devices, the less likely it is that they will be cyberbullied.

References

Nixon, C. L. (2014). Current perspectives: the impact of cyberbullying on adolescent  health. Adolescent health, medicine and therapeutics5, 143.

Vaillancourt, T., Faris, R., & Mishna, F. (2017). Cyberbullying in children and  youth: Implications for health and clinical practice. The Canadian journal of  psychiatry62(6), 368-373.

https://parents.au.reachout.com/common-concerns/everyday-issues/cyberbullying- and-teenagers

Munawar, R., Inam-Ul-Haq, M. A., Ali, S., & Maqsood, H. (2014). Incidence, nature  and impacts of cyber bullying on the social life of university students. World  Applied Sciences Journal30(7), 827-830.

August 12, 2020 - Comments Off on July 2020: Digital 50.50, second edition released

July 2020: Digital 50.50, second edition released

Online Campaigns and Initiatives

Digital 50.50 Second Edition

Digital Rights Foundation released the second edition of its e-magazine, Digital 50.50. This edition focused on the mental health impact and coping strategies during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the topics covered included, a feature on how children are making sense of the coronavirus lockdown, a narrative on digital healing and connectedness during the lockdown and listicle on strategies to do an effective digital detox for mental health and well-being. The reception received by the magazine has so far been amazing and we hope to continue supporting writers and content creators in creating visually strong and intersectional-feminist stories. Do give it a read here or skim through, we have filled it with love for our readers.

Hamara Internet and #MahfoozInternet Campaign

DRF has been taking forward the Hamara Internet campaign on #MahfoozInternet on Twitter highlighting the different aspects of digital rights in Pakistan. The campaign has been focusing on repelling section 20 of PECA 2016, regularly changing passwords to keep devices safe and secure and how social media companies track browser history of individuals.

DRF’s 5 Youth Ambassadors for the Hamara Internet Online Safety Program

DRF launched the Hamara Internet Youth Ambassador Program online and picked 5 youth ambassadors from across Pakistan on a vigorous application process online. The five youth ambassadors will be implementing the Hamara Internet Online Safety curriculum with young adults aged 14 till 18 years old.

Policy initiatives

DRF comments and Objections on the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020

DRF released its comments and objections on the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020. DRF reiterated their statement again that the rules are an attack on the fundamental rights of citizens in the country and shed light on why advocacy groups are boycotting consultation on the matter.

Read the full comments below:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/comments-on-the-consultation-objections-to-the-rules/

Statement against the ban of Bigo live and warning issued to TikTok:

DRF released a statement regarding the ban on the app Bigo live and the warning issued to TikTok recently by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). In the statement it was highlighted how banning both these apps is an attack on the constitutional right of freedom of expression of citizens in the country.

Read the full statement here:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/digital-rights-foundation-expresses-concern-regarding-banning-of-popular-social-media-applications-tiktok-and-bigo-live/

Joint Statement on The Digital Gap during COVID 19 focusing on online classes

Students across Pakistan have been protesting against the shift to online classrooms, rightly pointing out that as students from less urban centers move back home, they either lack access to high-speed internet or no internet at all. DRF released a statement on the digital gap during COVID19 highlighting the problems people are facing with this transition to online spaces. #Internet4GilgitBaltistan #OnlineClasses

Read the full statement here:

https://digitalrightsfoundation.pk/joint-statement-by-digital-rights-foundation-and-bolobhi-the-digital-gap-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-is-exasperating-inequalities/

Cyber Harassment Helpline June Statistics

Cyber Harassment Helpline received 413 complaints in the month of June only. In comparison to the previous months, this is a huge number. It shows a spike in the cases of online violence especially social engineering through which people are coerced into sharing their personal details like National Identity Card number, WhatsApp code, bank account details and, e-wallet details making them susceptible to hacking and financial fraud.

 

Read about our findings in the following articles:

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/cyber-harassment-on-the-rise-in-pakistan-report-says-1.72354581

https://www.technologytimes.pk/2020/07/02/cyber-harassment-on-the-rise-in-pakistan-report-says/

Media Coverage

DRF on GEO News focusing on how to prevent trolling on social media

DRF’s ED Nighat Dad spoke on Geo News highlighting trolling and how to prevent it in online spaces. She highlighted what measures people can take to avoid trolling and how cyberbullying is a problem in online spaces which should be focused on more.

Nighat Dad spoke on VOA about #unbanPUBG

DRF’s ED Nighat Dad spoke to Voice of America (VOA) about the PUBG ban and how this will have repercussions on our digital economy. She focused on why it is important to #unbanPUBG.

Watch the full interview here:

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CDCCXmIjPdJ/?igshid=11mk74l783mpa

Nighat Dad highlights in the News on ‘Any unwarranted restriction by animal market on digital media poses a threat to the nascent industry’

DRF’s Executive Director Nighat Dad spoke to the News about restrictions being posed on vloggers and bloggers online. She also highlighted how the restriction of speech of influencers and people online is a direct threat to their freedom of expression and a violation of the constitution.

Read the full article here:

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/689312-any-unwarranted-restriction-on-digital-media-poses-a-threat-to-the-nascent-industry?_ga=2.128972876.1732215066.1595183554-673778655.1584952470

Digital Exclusion Cripples life in the pandemic

DRF’s ED Nighat Dad shared how digital exclusion silences democratic voices in the country. She talked about how internet connectivity is a serious issue in Pakistan and how it has suffered over the years.

Read the full article here:

https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/pakistan-s-digital-exclusion-cripples-life-in-the-pandemic-38503

پاکستانی تعلیمی اداروں میں جنسی ہراس کتنا سنگین مسئلہ ہے؟

DRF’s ED gave comments about how harassment in educational institutions is a growing problem and how institutions need to do more to address these problems.

Read the full article here:

https://www.bbc.com/urdu/pakistan-53566551

Dawn’s Editorial highlights in its editorial about banning online apps

Dawn’s editorial highlighted about banning apps online and retreated DRF’s point on how the justification of such bans to ‘protect’ children is akin to banning highways to prevent road accidents.

Read the full editorial here:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1570991

Events and Sessions

DRF at the School of Tomorrow discussing ‘Freedom & privacy in information societies’ #SOT2020

DRF’s Nighat Dad spoke at Beaconhouse's School of Tomorrow conference on ‘Freedom and Privacy in Information Societies’. She shed light on how every individual is vulnerable online and how one must deal with issues of hacking and privacy breach. She also highlighted why it is important to be aware of your digital footprint.

Watch the full conversation here:

https://twitter.com/memoonashahid/status/1281539835887603714?s=20

Nighat Dad on Digital Rights Digital Divides and the new normal? (A talk by Nighat Dad)

Nighat Dad gave a talk on Digital Rights Digital Divide and the new normal on 21st July. She discussed online spaces post pandemic and particularly highlighted how the online landscape in Pakistan has changed and evolved post pandemic.

DRF at the webinar ‘The critical challenges of tackling hate speech, xenophobia, rhetoric, and incitement to hatred against minorities’

DRF participated in a webinar series on debating challenges for minority protection and spoke on the ‘Critical challenges of tackling hate speech, xenophobia rhetoric and incitement to hatred against minorities’. Nighat Dad spoke at the event on July 2nd and 9th.

DRF conducted a virtual session with Lincoln Corner ‘Digital Rights & Reporting Cyber Bullying’

DRF conducted a virtual session with Lincoln’s corner on ‘Digital Rights & Reporting Cyber Bullying’. Nighat Dad spoke in detail on how protecting one’s individual identity online is important and what one must do to respond to cyber harassment. She also highlighted the cyber harassment helpline and other intitriaves of DRF to tackle cyber harassment and cyberbullying online.

Consultation on VPN registration

DRF held a virtual consultation on the issue of VPN registration by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) with civil society actors, lawyers and industry stakeholders. The consultation was an opportunity to understand the impact of regulating VPNs on not only digital rights indicators, but also the viability of the digital economy in Pakistan.

Meeting with FIA

DRF’s cyber harassment helpline held a meeting with the Cyber Crime Wing of the FIA on July 6, 2020 to discuss the ways in which the work of our law enforcement agencies can be improved to make the internet safer for women and gender minorities.

RightsCon Panels

Digital rights solidarities in South Asia
July 31, 2020

DRF hosted its community lab session on the state of digital rights in South Asia with participants from India, Bangladesh and Nepal to understand the common trends in digital rights and state policies in the region. The aim of this session was also to forge solidarities and partnerships in the region based on our shared histories and challenges.

Between regulation and rights: empowering the citizen through media and information literacy in the context of misinformation and offline violence
July 30, 2020

DRF took part in Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)’s session at RightsCon 2020. The session (available here) brought a diversity of perspectives of media and information literacy practitioners from the Global North and South to tease out the nuances of the operation of the phenomenon in different socio-political contexts, the government responses, and the role of civil society in mainstreaming media and information literacy within the communities they work with.

Technology-facilitated hate speech and digital activism
July 31, 2020

DRF also took part in BoloBhi’s panel on online hate speech with Arzu Geybullayeva from Azerbaijan and Alex Warofka from Facebook. The session delved into an in-depth discussion about technology facilitated hate speech on social media platforms with special focus on hate received by digital activism. The session analyzed the impact this hate speech has on the movements and their actors, and seeks to explore ways to deal with it.

DRF Attends Uproar Training on 3rd July

Members of  DRF attended an online training on using the uproar tools, which are quite useful for improving research and advocacy skills with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Curbing Cyber Harassment in rapidly digitalizing world

On 23rd July, DRF took part in a facebook live session to address cyber harassment in a digitalized world. Muhammad Usman represented DRF at this session which was hosted by Peace and Justice Network Pakistan. Usman spoke on the offenses under PECA and on the reporting mechanisms and procedures of cybercrimes in Pakistan.

DRF at UNESCO webinar on ‘Advanced ICTs & Artificial Intelligence: Human Rights & Development Intersection

Nighat Dad spoke on UNESCO’s webinar on ‘Advanced ICTs & Artificial Intelligence: Human rights & Development Intersection’. She highlighted our growing reliance on ICT’s and technology and also highlighted how digital rights are important and need to be implemented in online spaces.

DRF at webinar on ‘Safer and Equal Online Space for Women’

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1668862656610192&ref=watch_permalink

DRF spoke at the webinar ‘Safer and Equal Online Space for Women’. She highlighted how the internet and technology need to be accessible to women for it to move ahead. She also emphasized how these spaces aren’t safe for women and gendered minorities and the responsibility of social media channels to make these spaces safe for all.

A talk on domestic violence in Pakistan

DRF’s Dania Mukhtar spoke on a talk on domestic abuse in Pakistan. She highlighted how domestic abuse has been on the rise in times of COVID19 and what the law says in terms of domestic abuse cases in Pakistan

Watch the full video here:

https://web.facebook.com/sujagvideos/videos/716058139215895

Meeting with Women Action Forum (Lahore) dated 14 July 2020

DRF presented its comments to the amendments proposed by UN Women to the ‘The Punjab Protection against Harassment of Women at the WorkplaceAct, 2010’. After the meeting, the teams of DRF and WAF decided to form a committee to propose amendments to this law as well as the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act, 2016.

Session with AWAM

DRF conducted an online safety session with team members of

Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) Organization of Faislabad on the 29th of July, 2020.

The session covered a basic understanding of how to keep oneself secure and protected from risks while working and operating digitally and was well-received by our participants.

COVID19 Updates

Cyber Harassment Helpline

In the wake of COVID 19 lockdown when cyber harassment cases have increased  DRF has made its cyber harassment helpline operational 24/7 for three months. The cyber harassment helpline is offering the services free of cost for anyone who calls in or reaches out to us via social media or email. These include legal aid, the digital help desk, and mental health counseling. During these three months, our toll-free number is  accessible every day of the week, from 9 AM to 5 PM, our mental health counselors are working from 10 AM to 9 PM each day as well. Our mental health counselors are trained professionals providing free of cost counseling to women and marginalized communities. During all other hours of the day, our team is attending to complaints and queries through online platforms.

Contact the helpline on 080039393 or email us on helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk. You can also reach out to us on our social media channels.

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.

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. The reports will then be assessed by trained IWF analysts in the UK.

https://report.iwf.org.uk/pk