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March 07, 2019 - Comments Off on What is a Helpline and When You Should Call One:

What is a Helpline and When You Should Call One:

In order to deal with the problems that accompany today’s highly digitalized age, the Digital Rights Foundation has initiated a Cyber Harassment Helpline. This helpline aims to guide the people and provide emotional support to people of Pakistan through any obstacles they may be facing, whether big or small.
Here are a couple of frequently asked questions to clear any doubts that you might have about our helpline and helplines in general.

What is a helpline?

A helpline is a telephone service, which offers advice and aid to people of all ages and gender status. Helplines aim to provide an non-judgemental listening ear to any caller who is facing trouble and address them with the best possible path they can take in ending their concern.

Why call a helpline?

We are all well aware of the multitude of challenges that people face daily when it comes to the digital world. Often times you need guidance to help us navigate through the obstacles you face. You may not feel comfortable sharing them with family or friends out of fear of being shunned or criticized, and that is okay. This is where public helplines comes in.

Helplines can be very valuable to you due to the free support that they offer. Not only are most helplines free, but certain helplines also guarantee 100% confidentiality. Trained agents listen to any issue you face, albeit emotional or otherwise, and guide you in the best way possible, customized specifically to your individual needs. If further aid is necessary, agents will point you in the right direction and get you in touch with those aids closest to you.

Is a helpline only for life threatening situations?

Contrary to popular belief, a helpline does not exist solely in the case of life threatening situations. For example, our Cyber Harassment Helpline is available in case of any form of help or information an individual may need regardless of whether the issue is incredibly pressing or not.

You may call on behalf of yourself as well as on the behalf of others you may feel are in need of help. The help line is also available as a source of emotional counseling to those facing distressing situations. However, if we do feel that your issue is out of our hand we will direct you to other professionals who will be able to better help your case.

Can DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline only help me through phone?

The Cyber Harassment Helpline not only provides help through the means of our number 0800-39393 from 9am to 5pm, but you may also email us at if needed.

What problems can I call a helpline for?

Our helpline services cover a wide range. The agents at the helpline will try and assist you with all forms of digital crime, such as:

  • Impersonation/Fake accounts
  • Blackmailing
  • The contraction of malicious software known as malware which harms data and devices
  • Social media hacks and spamming
  • Cyber stalking
  • Cyber bullying etc

If you are going through a similar situation, need advice or just someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to call on 0800-39393 between 9am to 5pm.

March 05, 2019 - Comments Off on 5 Ways You Can Stay Safe on Social Media as a Minor

5 Ways You Can Stay Safe on Social Media as a Minor

Are you under the age of 18 and an avid user of social media? We know how difficult it is to imagine a life without the internet. Born in a world run by technology and ruled by the Internet, you have experienced a fast paced and integrated world like no prior generation. However, spending several hours on social media platforms can also be a major concern.

The global increase in social media crimes, such as online threats, stalking, cyber bullying, hacking, fraud, and identity theft has made sense for this to be such a concern. It is therefore essential that you as children are educated about how to make proper use of social media.

Social media is not the enemy, but rather some users of social media are. Here are 5 important tips about how you can stay safe on social media:


Þ    Use a strong password that is long and incorporates numbers and signs.

Þ    Your safety is more important than a popularity contest so make sure to be selective about who you accept as a friend on social media. Verify an account before accepting their request, as there are many fake accounts online as well as stalkers.

Þ  Make sure not to share too much information online. Some basic things not to share would be your birthday, phone number, home address, or passwords.

Þ   Majority of social media sites allow you to customize your privacy settings, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This allows you to limit access to your personal information and control who can see your posts.

Þ    You can protect your devices by installing an antivirus program and consistently updating your software. Be very cautious about links sent by unknown numbers and even from friends on social media as they can be infected with a virus as well.

In truth, there is both beauty and terror in social media. It connects us to people and experiences all over the world. Social media, to quote from the Roman Historian Livy, is a “record of the infinite variety of human experiences”. So, use the internet, but with caution!

Written by: Rayyah Iqbal

December 19, 2018 - Comments Off on Cyberbullying In Children and What You Can Do

Cyberbullying In Children and What You Can Do

Cyber harassment or cyberbullying is a form of harassment using digital means. It has become extremely common, especially among teenagers. Harmful bullying behavior can include posting threat, rumors, a victim’s personal information, pejorative labels or sexual remarks.  This can have a negative effect on a child’s social life and self esteem.According to the statistics of Digital Rights Foundation, the Cyber Harassment Helpline has received 58 calls from individuals under the age of 18 who were a victim of cyber harassment and bullying, This number is not only increasing but raising concerns about the safety of our children in the online sphere.

Common Signs of Cyberbullying:

Avoiding socializing
If you notice that your child is being private and secretive about his or her digital life or is showing anti-social behavior and is avoiding gatherings, you might want to check in on him or her and ask if everything is okay.
Bad behavior and bad performance in school
If you feel like your child has been acting out more than usual and notice that she or he is not performing well in school, that might be an indication of your child being harassed online.
Wanting to stop using phone/computer
If you notice that your child has not been using social media, phone or his/her computer as often as he or she used to you might want to check up on them.
Displays signs of emotional distress
If you’ve noticed that your child is showing emotional distress (eg. crying easily, not eating properly) or reacts to certain situations irrationally, there is a chance they might be a victim of cyberbullying.
What parents/Older siblings and schools can do
As parents, the most important thing you can do is to discuss cyberbullying with your children. Building a conversation and an open ground for support is always effective. It’s a good idea to start talking about cyberbullying when they start using social media sites, or when they get a mobile phone. However, you should make sure that you do not interfere to the extent that your child starts keeping you out of the loop entirely, it is important for your child to know that you trust them.

Maintain honest and open communication and build a relationship so they confide in you easily. Don’t forget to ensure that their phone and social media apps are password protected. Schools can adopt a zero-tolerance policy for all types of bullying. Make it clear that any harassment, intimidation or threatening behavior will be dealt with seriously and appropriate action will be taken.

If you have any more questions or if you wish to talk to a representative, call us at the Cyber Harassment Helpline from 9 AM to 5 PM (7 days a week) at 0800-39393. We would encourage you to call if you are feeling emotional distress or depression of any kind.


Author: Qirat Gill

December 10, 2018 - Comments Off on DRF launched it’s #16Days of Activism

DRF launched it’s #16Days of Activism

SoonDigital Rights Foundation (DRF) launched the 16 Days of Activism campaign on the 25th of November which focused on gender based violence across the globe. The campaign focused on the theme of gender based violence at the workplace this year and DRF collaborated with the Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights who shared their experiences and challenges from the field of journalism. The 16 Days of Activism also marked the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders, held on 29th November. On this day DRF shared an infographic on the violence faced by women human rights defenders in Pakistan. Blogs were also shared during the 16 Days to emphasize the importance of taking measures to tackle violence against women in all fields. Click here to view more posts regarding the 16 Days campaign.


Internet Governance Forum 2018, Paris

Panel held on November 12 in Paris

DRF took part in the Internet Governance Forum 2018 (IGF) in Paris, France to represent Pakistan at the UN’s foremost multi-stakeholder conference. The conference, from November 12 to 14, saw DRF’s Shmyla Khan speak on the panel “Media and Content”. The conference also saw important discussions on topics such as fake news, freedom of expression online and gender in online spaces -  and DRF ensured that the perspective from South Asia, and the Global South in general, was represented.
Click here to view the panel on Media and Content.

Nighat Dad represented Pakistan at Paris Peace Forum
The International Declaration on Information and Democracy was signed by different heads of States at the Paris Peace Forum held in November. The Executive Director of DRF, Nighat Dad, who is a member of the Information and Democracy Commission, contributed in the Declaration, especially in the Principle related to Right to Privacy. The 6-page document sets out democratic guarantees for the freedom, independence, pluralism, and reliability of information at a time when the public space has been globalized, digitalized and destabilized.
Click here to read the Declaration.

2nd International Youth Summit 2018, University Of Lahore

The panel discussion took place on November 28 in Lahore

DRF participated in a panel discussion on “Cross cultural communication” at 2nd International Youth Summit 2018, University Of Lahore. The panel consisted of Hajer Chiha Sassi (Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Tunisia), Romina Khursheed Alam (Member of National Assembly, Pakistan), Todd Shea (CEO and founder of Comprehensive Disaster Response Services), Islam Wazir (academic and analyst) and Shmyla Khan (representing DRF). The audience had delegates from across the world and DRF spoke about the role the internet can play in bridging cultural barriers.

DRF represented at the event ‘Ethical and Criminal Aspects of Digital Media’ at Kinnaird College Lahore


DRF's Executive Director, Nighat Dad, was invited as the keynote speaker at Kinnaird's Media Event on the 7th of November.

Ms. Dad highlighted the need for greater online security measures that can be taken by each and every one of us at an individual level for our personal security and also spoke about the kind of toll that cyber harassment can have on our youth. The Media Society had opened the event with a short play they had prepared on the impact of blackmail and revenge porn and Ms. Dad also spent a part of her speech  focusing on imparting confidence and the message of help being around them in terms of the cyber harassment helpline and also spoke about the 'Ab Aur Nahin' project that will help to link victims of sexual harassment at workplace with a consortium of pro bono layers.


Freedom on the Net Report, 2018
Freedom House released the Freedom on the Net (FoTN) report for the year 2018, titled “The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism” globally. The report primarily focused on developments that occurred between June 2017 and May 2018. The report found that, out of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net, 26 experienced a deterioration in internet freedom and almost half of all declines were related to elections. The Pakistan report was authored by Digital Rights Foundation, and it was found that Pakistan remained marked as “Not Free” for the coverage period.
Nighat Dad attends The Global Future Council on Human Rights and Technology by World Economic ForumSoon
Nighat Dad attended the council meeting which focussed on leveraging technology for human rights promotion and advocacy, and brought together academics, business leaders, and civil society to identify ways to strengthen responsible use of data and promote evidence-based policy-making. Members of the network meet each year at the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils in Dubai, and virtually, several times a year. They also develop recommendations and integrate their findings into World Economic Forum activities such as the Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters and regional and industry events, as well as global decision-making processes.
DRF at A World of Tomorrow - Reimagined, Karachi

‘A World of Tomorrow - Reimagined’, a part of the School of Tomorrow (SOT) Events was a two-day conference held on 3rd and 4th November. Nighat Dad, along with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and an educationist, Dr Lawrence Burke, set the direction for the event. Ms. Dad was part of two panels - ‘Navigating Global Surveillance Societies’ and ‘#MeToo and Beyond’.  The two-day event had more than 100 national and international experts, policymakers, influencers, celebrities, social activists, environmentalists and thinkers from 15 countries sharing their ideas, perspectives and unique insights.

National Privacy Conference, Islamabad

DRF, along with it’s partners Privacy International and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom - Pakistan, organized the National Privacy Conference on ‘Data Protection and the Intersection between Gender and Privacy’ in Islamabad on November 19th, 2018.

The conference aimed to generate a comprehensive and interactive discussion with relevant stakeholders on data protection and the right to privacy in Pakistan. International and national trends and developments with regard to digital rights, data protection and gender and privacy were discussed at the event, which was attended by participants from across Pakistan.

The conference covered the themes of data protection and gender and privacy on the internet within the Pakistani context through panel discussions. The first panel, titled “Legal Framework of Data Protection in Pakistan”, was moderated by Sana Farrukh, and it shed light on the importance of having a data protection bill in the country. The panelists included, Nighat Dad, Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Shehryar Hydri from P@sha, Ameena Sohail from Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom (MoITT), Atif Mumtaz from Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and Maleeha Mengal from AGHS.

The second panel, titled “Gender and Privacy”, addressed the gendered nature of the right to privacy. The panel, moderated by Shmyla Khan, brought together diverse perspectives on the variations as well as overlap of the gendered nature of the privacy discourse within Pakistan. Women and sexual minorities have different privacy concerns and experience social surveillance from the society, as well as the state, which makes them all the more vulnerable. The panelists discussed the areas of concern and developments that are needed among different stakeholders in order to account for the gendered aspect of privacy rights. The panelists included Amber Shamsi, an award-winning multimedia journalist hosting a show at Hum News, Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi, Mehlab Jameel of NAZ Pakistan and Seerat Khan of DRF.


Writers Retreat held in Islamabad

DRF, along with it’s partners Privacy International and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom - Pakistan, organized the Writers’ Retreat for Journalists held in Islamabad, on November 19th, 2018.

The main aim of the event was to learn from the joint experiences of journalists working in print media, and to work on strategies to combat their difficulties together. A select group of journalists from across Pakistan came together to discuss the risks and hurdles associated with their work, the mental health concerns that arise due to the same, and coping methods and strategies they currently employ and can use in the future.

Additionally, the Journalist Safety and Protection Bill was discussed, with the journalists giving their recommendations on the same, which we aim to present to the ministry of information.

DRF at Q Berlin Questions 2018

Soon     Soon

Nighat Dad was invited as a speaker at Q Berlin Questions 2018. The city hosted a broad scientific and scholarly debate with speakers from a range of countries and sectors. The event comprised of speeches, discussions and music and was attended by around 400 participants.
Click here to view the speech.

Istanbul Innovation Days 2018

The Istanbul Innovation Days (IID), organised this year in partnership with Dark Matter Laboratories of London, brought together internal and external partners to showcase methodologies and practical examples of innovative governance and peacebuilding practices in different countries and settings. DRF was asked to present its work and reflect on the experiments engaged in over the conference and their applications to it work and policy and governance.

Sana Farrukh, research associate at DRF, was a panelist on the closing panel, “Reflections on the future of Governance and Peacebuilding” alongside Hossein Derakhshan, Research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, Martin Gramatikov, Director Measuring Justice, HiiL, Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director, Conciliation Resources, Shakirat Toktosunova, Country Representative International Alert, Kyrgyzstan, and Leif Kalev, Professor of State and Citizenship Theory, School of Governance, Law and Society, Tallinn University.

DRF at FNF’s 60 Year Celebrations


DRF along with its partners Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) celebrated Liberal footprints - Contributions to Pakistan's advancement : 60 Year Celebrations of FNF at Islamabad on 20th November. DRF set up the digital security clinic at the event where more than 300 people visited to discuss their personal digital security and the current legislation on digital rights in Pakistan in detail. The stall was visited by the German ambassador Martin Kobler and the Federal Minister of Education and National Heritage Shafqat Mehmood as well.

Nighat Dad gives an interview to BBC Urdu regarding fake news

While talking to BBC Urdu Nighat Dad talked about fake news and how this is an issue not just in Pakistan but all around the world. She mentioned that media houses and journalists should take responsibility to report fake news content found online to the social media companies and on the Government’s twitter handle so that the spread of misinformation could be controlled.  She also emphasized that this is a global issue and raising awareness and education regarding fake news is very important.

Click here to view the full video.

National Youth Peace Conference ,2018


DRF delivered a talk on Reducing Inequalities at National Youth Peace Conference held on 27-28 November, Lahore. The panel consisted of Yasmin Rashid (Provincial Minister of Punjab), Shazia Butt (Member of Provincial Assembly, Pakistan), Abida Ali (Youth Activist), Risham Waseem (Maati Tv), Kami Sid (transgender activist) and Jannat Fazal (representing DRF). The audience had delegates from across the world and DRF spoke about the role the internet can play in bridging cultural barriers.

Workshop on online safety with Hum News in Islamabad

On 9th November 2018, DRF conducted a one-day workshop with the staff of Hum News in Islamabad. The workshop was part of DRF’s initiative of conducting online safety training with media houses considering the increasing importance of cyber security, particularly for media organisations, whose most valuable assets are their content. Effective tools and protocols were discussed to safeguard the highly sensitive information of media houses and maintain its privacy.


Virtual session on “How to Combat Gender based Violence in a digital world”, Karachi

DRF delivered a session virtually on cyber harassment and gender based violence in digital world at lincoln corner Karachi on November 29.  The session was attended by students of different colleges.

‘Ethics for Social Media’ at Human Rights and Democracy Conference with Workers Education and Research Organization (WERO) and International Union of Food Workers (IUF)

DRF was part of a panel discussion on ‘Ethics for Social Media’ at the Human Rights and Democracy Conference on 29th November. The conference was with trade union representatives from Agriculture Culture, Sugar Mills, Hotels, Food and Beverage Industries.

Workshop on online safety for DAWN in Karachi


On 12th November 2018, DRF conducted a two-day workshop with DAWN in Karachi. The workshop focused on raising awareness regarding digital rights and equipping the staff of DAWN to employ effective tools and methods to keep themselves secure while performing their duties on digital platforms. The workshop was part of DRF’s initiative of conducting online safety trainings with media houses considering the increasing importance of cyber security, particularly for media organisations, whose most valuable assets are their content. Effective tools and protocols were discussed to safeguard the highly sensitive information of media houses and maintain its privacy.

“Online Safe Spaces for Journalists” at University of Sindh, Jamshoro

DRF held a session at University of Sindh with the students of Media and Communication studies on November 13, 2018. Around 80 students attended the awareness raising session where they were encouraged to keep themselves secure online.


Workshop for Lawyers on Digital Rights in Karachi

On 14th November 2018, DRF conducted a workshop which was held for lawyers in Karachi, focussing on creating awareness regarding digital rights and the legal landscape that governs digital rights. Around 20 lawyers attended the closed session and the participants were given specifically designed toolkits to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves, by adopting various tools and resources available to them.

Workshop for Journalists on Digital Rights, Karachi


On November 15th 2018, DRF conducted a workshop for journalists in Karachi. Journalists from other parts of Sindh also joined the session. The workshop consisted of an awareness raising session on digital rights and the legal landscape that governs digital platforms for freedom of media and journalists. The participants were also given hands-on training and specifically designed toolkits to guide them on how they can make online spaces safe for themselves by adopting various tools and resources available to them.

Nighat Dad meets the Human Rights Minister and the Federal IT Minister

Ms. Dad held a meeting with the Human Rights Minister, Shireen Mazari, and raised concerns regarding the human rights violations taking place in the online spaces. She also reiterated that human rights in the online spaces should be treated with the same severity as the violations that take place in the offline spaces. She also pushed for speedy trial in the Qandeel Baloch case. Later in the day Ms. Dad also met with the Federal IT Minister, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. She presented DRF’s recommendations on data protection law, tackling cyber harassment, internet shutdowns, digital gender divide, journalist safety and protection bill and online censorship. She also suggested him to make an advisory committee, with equal number of women in it, to help ministry achieve its goals.


Meeting with Shireen Mazari, the Human Rights Minister



Meeting with Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, the Federal IT Minister

Nighat Dad appointed as the member of the International Advisory Committee for the joint SDG programme

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research appointed DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad, as a member of the International Advisory Committee (IAC) for the joint SDG programme. IAC is responsible for assessing the overall quality of the research proposals, advising the Programme Committee on funding of research projects and approving project evaluation reports, once they are reviewed and assessed by the IAC.

DRF at Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy 2018

DRF participated in the two-day conference held on 22nd and 23rd November. The Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy was held in Poland’s capital for the seventh time. This year’s edition focused on the potential and challenges emerging from a growing role of new technologies at today’s political scene. Experts from across the world put the spotlight on the influence of new media on the processes of democratization and human rights respect. The speakers put an emphasis on the very popular social media, specifically in the context of fake news and free elections. The conference also looked at the growing role of new communication tools.

Members of Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to pen articles and blogs

Members of DRF's Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights continued to share articles and blogs on digital rights issues which can be found on the Hamara Internet website here. The Network advocates for women and other minority groups to have safe access to online platforms, where they can exercise their constitutional right of free speech without facing constant threats. The Network members pen articles to document these threats, bring forward issues in the implementation of legislation to prevent and protect women journalists from gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment both online and offline, and also advocate their access to effective remedies.

December 10, 2018 - Comments Off on Violence against women: Time to stop hysteria against naming and shaming of misogynists

Violence against women: Time to stop hysteria against naming and shaming of misogynists

How many times have you heard 'just get over it' and 'just block' when you've complained about a man hurling rape threats to you online? Those men who tell you that you should maybe kill yourself because you dare to voice to opinion on something they consider their 'area'? How many times have you screenshot-ted those messages, or better yet, sent them to someone in their friendlist?

Despite the hysteria stirred by some "objective" people against naming and shaming and #metoo, truth is many women still do not feel comfortable or safe naming and shaming. The reason? The guilt and victim-blaming internalised by women due to societal misogyny.

Be it the girl children being harassed by their uncles, college girls being cat-called or working women fighting their superior's overtures, a lot of women do not see the point of coming forward with publicly identifying and shaming their perpetrators.

Yet, some people, mostly men, have stirred up hysteria against "lives being ruined" by the #metoo--a pattern similar to doubting victims when they report rape offline too. The fact that it has been proved by research that  less than 2% of reported rapes are false claims, the victim-blaming mentality conveniently forgets the rape culture and the impossibility in some cases to provide messages, screenshots or other such evidence.

The same mentality leads people to give a knee-jerk reaction to claims of harassment against men, especially if they are famous. One wonders why can't the same research on rape be applied here too? Of course, the fact that the internet provides anonymity complicates the situation, but it doesn't mean the claims are dismissed altogether. A recent example is the accuser of US Supreme Court Judge Kavanaugh, then a nominee, who kept her accusations anonymous until she finally decided to come forward. Her accusations were not only probed further by media but also resulted in more of Kavanaugh's victims to tell their stories to media. Media also dug deeper into the matters of Bill Cosby and Jimmy Saville.

While the trend of naming and shaming can and might have been misused, it is preposterous to claim it is ruining lives of innocent men. And it is a great disservice to the survivors who might have no way other than remaining anonymous to name and shame their abusers.

This blog has been written by Sindhu Abbasi, Member of  DRF’s Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights.


December 10, 2018 - Comments Off on Educating against gender based violence

Educating against gender based violence

From Malala Yousafzai to Zainab Ansari, Farkhanda Malikzada of Afghanistan to Joyti Singh of India, World Wars to Fall of Dhaka - the world has seen all sorts of violence against the female gender, irrespective of age, and these have continued since the advent of time. However, times have changed and women now stand up against gender based violence. An initiative on this issue was undertaken by UN Women, called “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” an international campaign to highlight and challenge violence against women and girls, to run every year 25 November designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women till 10 December, which is the UN Human Rights Day.

During the 16 days, various platforms are used around the world to organize events and create awareness about gender-based violence during which women share their stories and narrate how they managed to escape from the abusive relationships and moved on in life.

This campaign is also organized in Pakistan, however our overall response to such issues as shown in how the #MeToo campaign was snubbed in our society and people even tried to corner women who dared to speak up to a point that some had to go into hiding. Anyone who spoke up on any social media platform in support of #MeToo or shared their story was called with nasty names and it was even said that they deserved it. While, on the other hand, in India people spoke out and named their abusers to bring shame to them, which was often supported by a vast majority of the responders on social media. Interestingly, while the general culture of using abusive language is similar yet people in India were more open to hear to the #MeToo narratives as compared to Pakistan.

These awareness programs led to various projects being set up in Pakistan to help women abused by their male family members or having been a victim of any form of harassment; however my observation from such projects is that they are the last resort as these are not helping women and instead provide them with an escape as they can stay in an environment away from the abusive one where they can stay without being hunted down by their families; this however is not the solution but a stop gap arrangement.

While these campaigns and projects are good to create awareness in society, a different method needs to be adopted. An example is the #HeForShe campaign which can be introduced in schools along with other areas of endeavor. The campaign aims to teach young boys and men good behavior, respect, equality and non-violent attitudes towards the opposite gender; young males if educated and taught from their early year’s will make a difference in life otherwise things will not change for our future generations.

On the other hand, girls from young age should be taught about living independently and given the power to grow and take decisions on their own. They should get education so they are able to earn a living for themselves. It is time women are taught self-defense incase a situation arises where they need to take action against an assailant; additionally the police system needs to be improved so women in need of Police assistance can lodge a complaint without being afraid of being abused or harassed.

Equality, empowerment and gender sensitivity as standalone subjects or combined with another discipline should be introduced in our curriculum so children start learning about these issues from an early age rather than having issues later in life; this can be brought about by engaging educationists, parents, parliamentarians and civil society for creation of a more gender friendly syllabus and applying it in our children’s schools.

This blog has been written by Umaima Ahmed, Member of  DRF’s Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights.


December 08, 2018 - Comments Off on Increasing violence against transgenders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Increasing violence against transgenders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

In Pakistan, parents react strongly when a transgender child is born, and in many cases they force their child to leave the home owing to the ‘disgrace’ they bring to the family. Abandoned by family and mocked by the society, transgenders live on the periphery of the society, which fails to see beyond labels.

Due to discrimination, ill-treatment   and cases of sexual violence, it becomes difficult for transgender people to receive a proper education. Facing rejection from both home and school, they often run away – finding solace only in their own community. With no proper education and facing severe hatred from the people around them, they are left with no other choice but to adopt the professions others in their company have adopted – sex work or dancing.

In the famous 2009 case of Khaki v. Rawalpindi, the Supreme Court of Pakistan granted groundbreaking rights to the transgender community in Pakistan for the first time. The Supreme Court demanded detailed reports about the status of the transgender population from all the provinces. A working paper was drafted afterwards about “the need to protect the rights and welfare of hijra [transgender women] in light of the discrimination, stigma, and exclusion they suffered.”

On the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, which was observed on November 20, 2018, it was reported in the media that there has been an increase in the violence cases against transgender persons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It was reported that in the last 10 days before November 20th, there were cases of three transgenders raped and videotaped in Swabi and Peshawar.

In one of the recent cases, the rape victim is reported to have said that around eleven persons t kidnapped and later raped her. She said the culprits also videotaped the rape and started threatening her that if she reported against them,  they would circulate the video on social media.  They later circulated the  video on social media, which has led to severe stress and depression.  The victim reported her case to the police and later, six perpetrators were arrested while efforts are being made to nab the remaining five.

In another recent case, a transgender from district Charsadda was kidnapped and raped. In this case too, the culprits videotaped and shared her video on social media. It has been reported that the offenders   offenders were arrested.

Another transgender got registered an FIR at the Odigram Police Station in Swat. She claimed that she was kidnapped by over 20 men after performing at a musical programme and raped at gunpoint. The transgender community of Swat later staged a protest and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits.

Farzana Riaz, President of Trans Association KP, told that in some cases police took action, but the culprits then easily secured the release from the police custody. She believes that this is one reason  why violence and rape cases against transgender persons in KP has increased.

Arzo, who is the General Secretary of TransAction Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told Digital Rights Foundation that there have been incidents where  fake IDs with  names of transgenders are made and their pictures posted which receive abusive and derogatory comments.  Arzo also said that it was very difficult for them to share their pictures on social media networks as people hurled abuses at them which showed the extent of transphobia in our society.

Arzo calls upon  the authorities  to take strict action against the people who are involved  social media trolling and harassment of members of the transgender community as transgender community is suffering a lot. The authorities must also take measures to create and include transgenders in meaningful employment so that their cycle of  poverty can be broken.

This blog has been written by Zeenat Khan, Member of  DRF’s Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights.


November 29, 2018 - Comments Off on Shrinking Spaces for Women Human Rights Defenders

Shrinking Spaces for Women Human Rights Defenders


Women and girls, in every corner of the world, are struggling for their rights or for the rights of the communities they live in. Women Human Rights Defenders across the world are not only discriminated against because of their line of work but also due to their gender. They defend the rights of every human being including women’s rights and the rights related to gender and sexuality and the work they do often puts their physical and cyber safety at risk.

29th November marks the International Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) Day, which is celebrated across the world to honor the courage and resilience women human rights defenders have. WHRDs are comparatively higher at risk than their male counterparts because of the restrictions imposed on them by society due to their gender. They are often labelled as ‘immoral’ women without familial values and morals, and are subjected to reputational damage.

WHRDs working on specific women issues like sexual and reproductive health rights face greater hostility. They are considered to be the ones who bring disgrace to the family due to their sensitive line of work. It is essential that WHRDs get protection and support from their peers, families and the state.

Online and offline spaces are correlated and the consequences individuals face in online spaces can also lead to repercussions in offline spaces which is why it is essential to know what the law is. Other than the challenges and risks from their communities, WHRDs are also vulnerable in digital spaces. They are harassed, exploited and blackmailed through different online platforms especially with the evolution of social media. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) was passed in 2016 which focused on online violence. The law was specifically introduced to protect women in online spaces. Any activity in which individuals are intimidated and blackmailed through computer technology and social networking sites would constitute as cyber harassment. The cybercrime law clearly states that using someone’s name, ID and pictures without consent can potentially lead to 3 years of imprisonment or five million fine.   

It is important for WHRD’s to have awareness of strong digital security measures and privacy tools on their devices and laptops. Despite the sensitivity of the work they do, some WHRDs tremendously lack online safety awareness, so much that some WHRDs do not know about the ways of securing their email accounts. Digital Rights Foundation is an organisation which works closely with WHRDs to raise awareness of the tools and measures that they can employ to work efficiently and securely, in both online and offline spaces. During one such workshop, I learnt that passwords must be a mix of of alphanumeric characters and symbols. I also learned that that sharing passwords via applications and platforms that are not encrypted is not safe and that one should avoid sharing personal photos, contacts and their daily routine schedule with any new contacts that one adds.

In case you encounter cyber harassment you can get in touch with DRF’s cyber harassment helpline 0800-39393 which is a toll free number. The helpline provides three basic services which are digital security assistance, psychological help and legal aid. The helpline functions from Monday till Sunday, 9:00 am till 5:30 pm. You can also reach out to the helpline on .

Author: Sidra Humayun

November 05, 2018 - Comments Off on PECA (AMENDMENT) BILL 2018: UPDATE


Pakistan drafted and passed its first cybercrime law in the form of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), on the 22nd of August, 2016. As progress since then has shown, the legislation is embedded with many flaws. While PECA filled in a gaping void that existed due to the lack of regulation surrounding internet usage in the country, the concerns with its form existed beforehand and were also highlighted with the Year in Review published on this website.

In the two years since its advent, calls for the Act’s amendment have been made on multiple instances for a multitude of reasons. Civil society groups have posited that the vague language, broad powers and disproportionate punishments prescribed in the Act are a cause for concern and should be amended. Law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, hold that PECA does not provide them with enough powers. For instance they have argued that implementation of the Act is stymied by the compoundable, bailable and non-cognisable nature of all the offences listed under the Act with the exception of s.10 (cyber terrorism), s.21 (offences against the modesty of a natural person) and s. 22 (child pornography). It is their contention that due to these limitations, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is often unable to move for prosecution. A proposal to amend PECA has been requested in its first half-yearly report to the Parliament, submitted in February 2018.

The FIA perceives the impact of these qualities of the offences as impeding the relevant LEA’s ability to effectively invoke prosecution, especially for offences that are time-barred due to their sensitive nature e.g cases involving blackmail and harassment of a minor or threats involving the exposure of sexually explicit content as a result of hacking into the victims’ personal database. While the highly violent nature of our patriarchal society’s reaction to such ‘disgrace’ or the mere threat of it imparts crucial import to the need for efficacy at the FIA’s end, the FIA has historically abused the authority vested in it to perpetrate further human rights violations. The recent development in which the country’s telecom watchdog, PTA, has offered to hand over the task of monitoring cyber crimes to the FIA citing lack of capacity, only compounds our concern over conferring absolute discretion and authority on the one institution and the potential ramifications.

The current amendments proposed to PECA were set into motion following the notice taken by the Islamabad High Court’s (now deposed) Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqi on the 31st of March, 2017 whereby he issued an order to the federal government to amend the legislation to include false blasphemy charges and to look into the criminalisation of pornography (child pornography is already criminalized under PECA).

The committee, which was tasked with the responsibility of drafting this PECA (Amendment) Bill 2018,  met on the 10th of October. The amendment faced opposition from various quarters and against which requests were submitted to the Senate from multiple avenues including IT Minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noorulhaq Qadri as well as JUI (F) Senator Maulana Haideri the who walked out of the meeting and assured that his party would not be supporting any of the amendments.

The Bill was officially returned by the Senate on the 12th of October when Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz requested the secretariat to have the Bill withdrawn. The impact of these developments is two-sided, on the one hand the inclusion of the blasphemy section (proposed as s.27C) and the overlap with Article 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code was bound to blur lines and create replication of offences within the criminal justice system. The provision criminalising false blasphemy charges, on the other hand, was a welcome move as it could potentially serve to diminish instances of fake accusations which carry damning consequences for the accused when the penalty is as severe as the death penalty.

October 31, 2018 - Comments Off on End culture of impunity for crimes against journalists

End culture of impunity for crimes against journalists

Dr Rasmus Nielsen, Director of Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford says ‘Journalism is an imperfect but important part of democracy: we as citizens are empowered to make meaningful decisions about ideals, interests and aspirations – about who we vote for, but also whether we want to get engaged in other ways. The precondition for that is knowing something about the world that goes beyond your personal experience.’

Journalists play an important role in helping democracies prosper and fill the gap between the masses and the government. A journalist’s calling is not only tough but often also life threatening. They have to deal with censorship, pressure, threats, physical abuse, violent attacks or mortal violence.

November 2 every year is celebrated as the “UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists” since 2013.

As per UNESCO data 1010 journalists have been killed between 2006 – 2017 in the line of duty.



This is not a new phenomenon nor is it limited to any specific country or region; however recently the safety of journalists has seen a worsening increase. Jamal Khashoggi’s death under mysterious circumstances a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi Regime speaks volumes about the threats journalists have to deal with. Apart from such incidents journalists also lose their life while reporting from the field like Shah Marai an Agence France Press correspondent, killed in an attack by ISIS in Afghanistan in April this year. A Judge Malaysian sentenced two Reuters reporters Wa Lone, 32 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, to 7 years jail for being guilty of breaching a law on state secrets. A world famous political cartoonist, Zunar, or Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, faces 43 years of jail in Malasia, 9 of his books have been banned and his house raided to look for incriminating evidence. Danial Pearl of the Wall Street Journal was beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan while following a lead for a story.

As with journalists from many countries, Pakistani journalists also endure pressure for being part of the journalist community; may it be in the form of internal or external pressure, censorship or even death. According to Committee to Protect Journalists, 60 journalists were killed in Pakistan since 1998 to date where the motive for killing was confirmed.

Recently, Cyril Almedia Assistant Editor and Columnist for Dawn was put on the Exit Control List for publishing an interview of former PM Nawaz Sharif. Saleem Shahzad was killed and his body was recovered from Upper Jhelum Canal by Pakistan Navy divers after his book about alleged links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistani establishment was published. Wali Khan of GEO News was killed by allegedly by Saulat Mirza and Faisal Mota of a Political party’s militant wing in Karachi, they were sentenced to death by a court in March 2015.

As social media is the new medium for spreading news among the masses, this is fast becoming an unsafe zone for journalists. Now everything posted in Social Media especially by female journalists receives backlash in shape of harassment and threats online resulting in many opting to self-censorship.

Apart from duties journalists are supposed to carry out under the umbrella of “work” they are human beings also with a life outside their work which should be recognized and considered.

Killing of or disappearance of journalists under the garb of ‘national interest’ is a violation of human rights; while those who carry out these “crimes” against journalists are not held accountable. Many now feel that it is about time “national interest” is defined clearly so that people understand where the line is, and think before crossing it; this will also prevent the argument given by people in power when they want media to not discuss issues that exposes them.

Author: Umaima Tahir Wadood