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May 18, 2018 - Comments Off on DRF at RightsCon Toronto 2018

DRF at RightsCon Toronto 2018


Digital Rights Foundation is at the largest digital rights gathering RightsCon 2018, this time happening in Toronto. The conference brings together human rights advocates, activists, lawmakers, academics, and allies of digital rights to discuss the most pressing issues concerning the people of the world in technological age.

The team of DRF is highlighting the gendered nature of these issues at the conference, along with many other problems that need the attention of the global community.

Here's where to find Hyra Basit and Nighat Dad - team members of DRF - if you are at the RightsCon! [PDF]

December 18, 2017 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation is at the Twelfth Annual Internet Governance Forum, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation is at the Twelfth Annual Internet Governance Forum, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation is at the Twelfth Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) happening in Geneva, Switzerland from 18th to 21st of December, 2017. The dynamic get-together of diverse stakeholders will discuss pressing public policy issues related to the digital world. It allows all participants to share their experiences and debate, as equals, the opportunities and challenges arising from the process of digitization.

Find Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, at the IGF organising and speaking at some of the very interesting sessions which include,

Surveillance from the Margins

December 19, 2017 | 11:00 am - 12:00 noon | Room XXII - E United Nations Office at Geneva
Organiser: Digital Rights Foundation

Surveillance is not a uniform experience, be it surveillance by the state, companies or social actors. The gendered nature of surveillance and the different forms it takes given the positionality of the person experiencing it is particularly glaring when experienced by members of a particular gender or a marginalised community. Sometimes surveillance is discriminatory per se, in that it is directed specifically at people because of their gender, race, class, disability, sexual orientation, etc. For instance, phishing attacks experienced human rights activists or offline and on-the- ground-surveillance of journalists covering controversial topics. In other instances, facially non-discriminatory surveillance is experienced differently by certain individuals
because of their marginality and positionality through the disparate impact that it has. It is the second form of surveillance that is often left undiscussed and the intersectionality of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation and ability is unexamined.

The purpose of this panel comprising of people from diverse backgrounds, is not only to map and understand the diversified experiences of surveillance but to take these findings regarding the diffused nature of surveillance and work towards actively finding solutions to the particular kinds of surveillance experienced by marginalised groups. The aim of the discussion will also be mainstream discourse from the margins at a global level.

Moderator: Alexandrine Pirlot de Corbion


  • Nighat Dad
  • Ankhi Das
  • Lisa Garcia
  • Joana Varon
  • Amalia Toledo

The impact of digitisation on politics, public trust, and democracy

December 19, 2017 | 10:00 am - 13:00 pm CET | Main Hall - Room XVII - E United Nations Office at Geneva
High Level Session of the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2017

The digital space, as a cornerstone of the public policy space, can be a great enabler for democratic discourse and participation, as well as inclusive policy-making. At the same time, the misuse of the digital public policy space can lead to the distortion of truth, mistrust in public information, and misrepresentation of public opinion.

This session will discuss both the opportunities and the challenges that digitisation brings to the digital political sphere, the public trust, and democracy. Discussions will revolve around ways of strengthening the benefits of democratic participation and inclusion via digital means, limiting the negative impact of the misuse of the public policy space, and rebuilding trust among online users.

The session will also address the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders. It will look at issues such as government policies aimed at creating more inclusive policy-making processes through the use of digital tools, the responsibility of Internet intermediaries for the dissemination of fake news and false news that can influence political processes, and the elements that can help rebuild trust among users. Also, the session will discuss the role of media actors in a democracy and the implications of the ongoing structural change in the media ecosystem. Most importantly, the session will look into whether and how digital literacy, education, and awareness-raising could be the key towards empowering citizens not only to take advantage of digital tools, but also to deal with the challenges related to the misuse of the digital public space.

‘Good stories’, ‘bad stories’, and lessons learnt will be explored as part of the discussions.

Host Chair: Mr. Philipp Metzger, Director General, Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM)
Moderator: Ms. Nathalie Ducommun, Talk Master of Swiss Television RTS
Remote Moderator: Ms. Katharina Hoene, DiploFoundation

The roundtable will include the following speakers:
• Ms. Nighat Dad, Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan*
• Mr. Bobby Duffy, Global Director, Ipsos Social Research Institute*
• Ms. Kareen Jabre, Director of Programmes, Inter-Parliamentary Union*
• Ms. Malavika Jayaram, Executive Director, Digital Asia Hub*
• Mr. Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General Communication & Information, UNESCO*
• Ms. Dunja Mijatovic, former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media*
• Mr. Gonzalo Navarro, Executive Director, Asociación Latinoamericana de Internet*
• Mr. Jean Paul Philippot, President, European Broadcasting Union*
• Ms. Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Director General of Democracy, Council of Europe*
• Ms. Nanjira Sambuli, Digital Equality Advocacy Manager, World Wide Web Foundation*
• Mr. Sébastien Soriano, Chairman, National Regulatory Authority for Telecoms and
Posts, France*
• Mr. Robert Strayer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International
Communications and Information Policy, U.S. Department of State*

Combating Online Violence Against Politically-Active Women

December 19, 2017 | 3:00 - 4:30 PM CET | Room XXII - E United Nations Office at Geneva
Organiser: National Democratic Institute (NDI)

This is a multi-sector panel discussion about strategies for understanding and combating online violence against politically-active women. Online harassment of politically-active women is one form of the global problem of violence against women in politics (VAW-P), and can result in women choosing not to participate in leadership or political debates, and ultimately not to express their opinion. The resulting limitation of both the number of women able to participate and the range of issues discussed poses a fundamental challenge to democracy, progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as to the integrity of the information space.

The panel will engage experts from multiple sectors including digital activism, women's empowerment, technology, and international governance, to discuss methods for building international understanding of this issue and identifying strategies for combating it.

Moderator: Sandra Pepera, Director, Gender, Women and Democracy, National Democratic Institute (NDI)

Nighat Dad - Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation
David Kaye - UNSR Freedom of Expression
Seyi Akiwowo - Elected politician in East London, and Founder of Glitch! UK
Nathan Mathias - Postdoc computational social scientist at Princeton University
departments of Psychology, Sociology, and Center for Information Technology Policy

June 6, 2017 - Comments Off on Of Challenging Online Violence, Preserving Digital Rights and Internet Freedom: May 2017 at DRF

Of Challenging Online Violence, Preserving Digital Rights and Internet Freedom: May 2017 at DRF

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May 2017 was one of the busiest months at Digital Rights Foundation. With a talk at Carter Center, one at University of Harvard, the launch of a research study, a national conference, two workshops, and multiple events and sessions throughout Pakistan - the team was busy making the internet safe and accessible for everyone.

This post summarizes the activities in May 2017 at Digital Rights Foundation.

Nighat Dad speaks at the Harvard University - May 3, 2017

Nighat Dad spoke about "Digital Rights and Online Harassment in the Global South" at The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University on May 3, 2017. Nighat's talk focused on how people in the South are unaware of their digital rights. They, especially women, face online harassment and have no support to handle the trauma that comes with it. She also emphasized on the fact that cyber threats very often translate into offline consequences.

Nighat Harvard

Nighat shared the process of setting up Pakistan's first Cyber Harassment Helpline with a very limited budget for the survivors and victims of online harassment. She alse highlighted the stats of the helpline in the first 4 months of operation since its launch in December 2016. The talk in its entirety can be watched here: [YouTube Link]

Digital Security Clinic at Digital Youth Summit 2017 - May 5 to 7, 2017 in Peshawar

In early May, DRF organised a free Digital Security Clinic at the Digital Youth Summit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). Our 3-person team dispensed digital security advice, raised awareness about cyber harassment, and gave people hands-on demonstrations on how to use important digital security tools. The clinic was an immense success, serving approximately 320 over two days--that’s around 20 people per hour!

DRF Tweet Wall at Digital Youth Summit

DRF Tweet Wall at Digital Youth Summit

The team was expecting a conference full of techies, but to their pleasant surprise many of the visitors were from non-STEM backgrounds-–including teachers, political activists, businesspersons, artists & artisans. The team also put up a tweet-wall against harassment that KPK filled up with lots of love. But the moment that made it worth it all was when one of our female visitors looked at us and said: “Thank you all for doing this here!”

Nighat Dad Speaks at The Carter Center - May 8-9, 2017:

Nighat Dad addressed the former US President Mr. Jimmy Carter, and Senator Mr. Bernie Sanders at The Human Rights Defenders Forum organised by and at The Carter Center.


Nighat talked about some major issues that concern digital rights and privacy of the global citizens, including the laptop ban that Nighat says is actually "the Muslim laptop ban". She also emphasized on the US mass surveillance and the Muslim travel ban. According to her, these human rights violations by the countries like the United States of America set bad precedence for other countries like Pakistan that adopt their practices and laws from the west.

Watch the video here as she speaks to the room full of human rights defenders from around the globe.

Hamara Internet FNF Training - Bacha Khan University

Digital Rights Foundation held an awareness raising session with the students of Bacha Khan University, Charsada in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF). The session was held to create awareness among women about online violence, abuse and harassment. Digital security tips were also given to women in the session to create awareness on how women can protect themselves online. University students actively participated throughout the session and shared their queries and stories regarding online harassment.

Charsadda Session

Nighat Dad Selected as TEDGlobal Fellow for 2017

Nighat Dad has been selected as one of the TEDGlobal Fellows for 2017. Nighat along with 20 other fellows for 2017 will talk at the TED stage in August in Arusha, Tanzania. According to the TEDGlobal website, “[The TED Fellows] are building companies, sequencing rare diseases, exploring the stars, making music, saving lives, mapping political violence, and much much more.” Details here.


Nighat has been defending digital rights and advocating for the open internet access for all in Pakistan since 2012. She has been named TIME’s Next Generation Leader 2015, has won the Atlantic Council Award, and the prestigious Human Rights Tulip Award in 2016.

Hamara Internet Workshop “Ending Cyber Harassment Against Women with CSO Representatives" - May 22, 2017

DRF held a workshop under the Hamara Internet banner in Islamabad with civil society representatives to discuss the impact of cyber harassment and online abuse. Participants participated enthusiastically where they discussed various roles of Civil Society Organisations (CSO's) to prevent online violence and harassment. The closed working group also shared their opinion about the role of media and its implications for common citizens.


Hamara Internet Conference "Challenging the Evolving Threat of Online Violence" - 25th May, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation organized the “Hamara Internet Conference- Challenging the Evolving Threat of Online Violence” in Lahore on May 25, 2017. The conference included women and digital rights activists, and dealt with issues of online harassment, freedom of expression, privacy, data protection, monitoring, the internet economy, and digital access. The event was attended by students, academics, activists, members of the tech industry, journalists, and women's rights organizations. The panels consisted of “Hamara Internet: Understanding Online Harassment”, “Opportunities on the Internet: New Patterns in Business, Employment and Innovation for women” and “Imagining a Feminist Internet with the Help of Hamara Internet."


The conference also marked the soft launch of Digital Rights Foundation’s quantitative study “Hamara Internet: Measuring Pakistani women’s of online violence”. Furthermore, Jannat Fazal (Psychologist, DRF) and Safieh Shah (Consultant, Medicin Sans Frontiere) also presented their research on “Online harassment: Implication on the mental health of women globally, based on a review of Digital Rights Foundation’s operations in Pakistan."

Measuring Pakistani Women's Experience of Online Violence - Research Study by DRF

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Digital Rights Foundation marked the soft-launch of Pakistan’s first quantitative research study on online violence titled, “Measuring Pakistani Women’s Experiences of Online Violence” on May 25, 2017. The study compiles the data collected from close to 1400 women during the 17 sessions that had been conducted in Punjab, Sindh, KhyberPakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Gilgit, to create the first ever set of data around online violence in Pakistan. The study maps different aspects of online violence against women, along with a look at how women use digital tools on the whole. It highlights the need for more awareness about anti-harassment laws.


It was found that 72% of the female respondents reported that they were not aware of cyber harassment laws in Pakistan. Most women pointed out that they either had not read or understand (24%) terms and conditions of social media websites. Furthermore, 45% of the women felt that they did not report online harassment because they were embarrassed and 47% felt that it would not be taken seriously by law enforcement agencies.

The details on the research can be accessed here.

Workshop on Privacy and Digital Rights - May 26, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation held a workshop on privacy and digital rights on on May 26, 2017 in Lahore.

Privacy workshop

The Workshop discussed the state of privacy rights in Pakistan in light of cyber law and its implementation. The goal of this focus group discussion was to start a debate about the law, its significance and shortcomings in terms of implementation. Furthermore, Digital Rights Foundation talked about privacy rights and the need for a data protection law in light of best practices abroad. The workshop participants were divided around themes of media regulation (both traditional and social media), SAFE City initiatives and telecommunications policies. The participants put forward several suggestions regarding standard operating procedures, right to know how information is used and demanded transparency from the government. The participants pointed out that social media and blogs are unregulated, and they concluded that there needs to be some SOPs around media ethics and privacy.

Online Harassment : A Retrospective Review of Digital Rights Foundation

A study on Online Harassment was presented by Jannat Fazal - the mental health counselor at DRF - and Safieh Shah - Consultant at MSF -  on MSF Scientific Day 2017 organised by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Delhi, India on May 27, 2017.


The aim of the review of the data is to highlight the psychological impact of cyber harassment on female mental health in Pakistan. Data was collected through Cyber Harassment Helpline from 406 callers using telephonic questionnaire from December 2016 to April 2017. This included demographics, problem description and notes taken by the experts during calls.

DRF and [email protected] Condemn the Cyber Harassment of Amar Sindhu and Arfana Mallah

Digital Rights Foundation and [email protected] released a joint statement to condemn the cyber-harassment, abuse and intimidation that well-known professors and activists of Pakistan Arfana Mallah and Amar Sindhu have been subjected to over the past four months. Read the statement here.

May 3, 2017 - Comments Off on A Glimpse into the Month of April ’17 at Digital Rights Foundation

A Glimpse into the Month of April ’17 at Digital Rights Foundation

A legislation called Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), which was enacted in the name of securing people of Pakistan struggles to solve issues pertaining to digital spaces. A lot of times, people don't know who to turn to if they encounter any unpleasant incident online. This problem amplifies when citizens don't know their constitutional rights. Digital Rights Foundation was engaged in the series of sessions and events throughout the month of April to talk to people from different backgrounds about their digital rights and aimed at empowering them with the information needed to raise their voices against injustice and to demand their rights as the citizens of Pakistan.

DRF Spoke to 70 journalists from Across Pakistan on Digital Rights and Online Safety


DRF spoke to 70 journalists from across  Pakistan on digital rights and online safety at National Media Conference 2017 organised on April 20th - 21st, 2017 by College of Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at IBA, Karachi. DRF conducted six sessions with the participants who were all journalists from different media groups across Pakistan. The sessions aimed at creating awareness about digital rights and privacy among the journalists who face serious level of threats due to the nature of their work. The participants were also briefed about the lack of data protection and transparency among the service providers, including telecom companies and ISPs, in Pakistan and across the world, and what it means for the users in the absence of data protection laws in Pakistan.

When asked if they read the privacy policies of any service before signing up for it, the main concern of most of the participants and the reason for them to not bother reading the policies was the complicated legal language used in those guidelines that according to them, even if they attempt to read, they won’t understand it.

Facebook Released its Latest Government Requests Report and its Worrying for Pakistan


Facebook, as part of its ongoing public objective to provide transparency, released its bi-annual Government Requests Report (GRR) for the months of July - December 2016. According to the report, the Government of Pakistan made 1,002 total requests related to 1,431 user accounts, compared to 35 total requests related to 47 user accounts according to the first ever GRR report published in 2013. More on Facebook's GRR report for Pakistan here.

France's "Right to be Forgotten" Law Challenged by Worldwide NGO Collective


Doughty Street Chambers joined hands with 18 NGOs including Digital Rights Foundation to file legal submissions before France’s highest court, the Council of State, raising serious concerns about a ruling of France’s data protection authority, la Commission nationale informatique et libertés (“CNIL”), on the “right to be forgotten". Although justified as necessary for the protection of minors and to allow victims of cyber harassment to remove content posted about them online, "Right to be Forgotten" laws have come under fire for being vaguely defined. Read more.

Nighat Dad speaks at Afghanistan's first Internet Governance Forum

Afghan IGF

National IT Professional Association of Afghanistan (NITPAA) organised Afghanistan’s first Afghan School on Internet Governance on April 26 - 27, 2017 where Nighat Dad spoke to the participants. Her talk featured how human rights should be incorporated in internet governance. She also specified the digital rights that should be protected for all the citizens. She highlighted that internet is an open platform and its governance should involve every stakeholder, state and non-state.

Panel Discussion: "Freedom to Information in the Digital Age" at LUMS


The panel discussion brought together Mukhtar Ahmad Ali (Commissioner for the Punjab Information Commission), Anoosha Shaigan (Courting the Law) and Shmyla from DRF.

The panelists discussed the role of novel and unprecedented ways through digital technologies can be used to enhance the right to information. The panelists discussed the advantages and shortcomings of the the Right to Information legislation in different provinces and the need for a robust one at the federal level.

The question and answer session discussed the role of open government and the need for whistle-blower protection in Pakistan. Students were encouraged to exercise their right to information in their practice and activism to hold the state accountable.

Panel Discussion: ‘The Role of Social Media in Raising Tax Awareness’


Nighat Dad was invited to speak at a discussion led by the Punjab Revenue Authority on the 7th of April at LUMS. The panel included Industries Secretary Mujtaba Piracha, Bramerz Chief Executive Badar Khushnood, Netsol Executive Anam Naseem, Feryal Gauhar, and two members of the LUMS student body, and the concluding remarks were given by Punjab Minister for Finance Dr. Ayesha Ghaus.

Nighat Dad speaks at LUMS

Internet Rights are Human Rights: Nighat Dad spoke to the students at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) on “Internet Rights are Human Rights” on April 28th where she talked about why digital rights in the technological age matter, and how they can demand their rights under the constitution of Pakistan. She also mentioned how when digital rights are violated, people’s freedom to access the online media suffers. She also added the gendered perspective to her talk and emphasized that marginalised groups use the online platform to learn and earn, which they often are barred to do in the real world due to various societal and political reasons.

Nighat Lums April 29

Lecture with the Cyber Law class: Nighat spoke to the students of the cyber law class on online harassment on April 17th. She talked about how online harassment has become a serious issue, and that the online threats are often translated into offline consequences. She also talked about the recently passed Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) and briefed the students how it criminalizes cyber crimes and protects the rights of the citizens in the offline spaces. She also points out the problematic sections in the law and emphasized that it criminalizes some harmless criticism too.

Workshop for the Female Students of Journalism and Mass Comm at University of Sargodha

Digital Rights Foundation conducted an awareness raising workshop for female journalism and mass communication students at the University of Sargodha, Sargodha on April 6, 2017.  The one day workshop focused on the threats female journalists face during the course of their work and throughout the interactive session, different tools and strategies were focused upon to help the students safeguard their privacy and security in the course of their journalistic work in the future.

His Name was Mashal: DRF and DSA organised Open Mic in Remembrance of Mashal Khan

Digital Rights Foundation and Democratic Students Alliance (DSA) organised an open mic in remembrance of Mashal Khan who was lynched to death over alleged online blasphemy. The open mic titled "His Name was Mashal" gathered people to discuss the legacy of Mashal Khan, and all that he believed in - freedom of speech and freedom of thought. The videos from the event can be found here and here.

On the 13th of April, Mashal Khan a, student of journalism was lynched at the Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) in Mardan. Mashal was shot and beaten to death by a mob of students over alleged blasphemy within the university. Investigations regarding the case are still going on and so far 7 have confessed of their involvement in the murder and 41 people are suspects and under custody. Political turmoil and tensions are at an all time high since political parties are insisting to release the people involved in the murder. AWKU has also set up an inquiring committee to probe into the matter of blasphemous activities carried on by students from the Department of Journalism and furthermore rusticated two of the victims from the university until further notice. On the 28th of December Mashal Khan uploaded statuses about fake profiles being made in his name on social media websites to malign him which has stirred controversy among people and disclaimers about profiles are being posted online. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has gone through Mashal’s profiles and has so far found no blasphemous content on his profile.

DRF’s Guide on “What to do in Case of a Fake profile?”


Digital Rights Foundation compiled some essential guidelines to follow in case of a fake profile on social media. The detailed infographic describes the reporting mechanisms present to report fake profiles on various social media websites. Details about how to report to the FIA and how to reach out to the Cyber Harassment Helpline [0800-39393] which is the first of its kind in Pakistan were also shared in it. Fake profiles can involve impersonation, spamming, and non-consensual usage of private information and pictures, to name a few. In light of recent events it is important to always be vigilant, and to take proper measures to protect yourself online. The infographic can be accessed here.

April 4, 2017 - Comments Off on March 2017 at Digital Rights Foundation

March 2017 at Digital Rights Foundation

March 2017 started on a wonderful note for Digital Rights Foundation, with Internet Freedom Festival scheduled in the first week of the month. The activities kept escalating for the team, from Open Government Partnership Consultation event scheduled in the mid of March, to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submission by DRF, Submission for the report of UN Secretary General on the safety of journalists on the issue of impunity, submission to UN Office of the High Commission of Human Rights on the situation of Digital Gender Divide in Pakistan, RightsCon Summit during the end of the month, Women's Day campaign, and events and seminars conducted and attended by the team throughout the month.

Here's a compilation of all that kept us busy this past month.

Internet Freedom Festival, 2017


Digital Rights Foundation participated in the Internet Freedom Festival (2017) held from March 6th to March 10th in Valencia, Spain. The event was a convergence of internet freedom activists from around the world bringing together their varied experiences and perspectives.

DRF hosted several panels at the event, ranging from topics such as “Surveillance from the Margins: Different Experiences of Surveillance”, online harassment with “Taking Matters into Our Hands: Addressing Online Harassment” to “Data protection law and is different manifestations”.

Here are the details of the sessions hosted by DRF at IFF.

Technology in Elections Panel

DRF participated in an event hosted by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) on March 22, 2017 in Islamabad. The panel discussion was a mix of members from civil society, elections experts and Parliamentarians: hosted by Hassan Nasir Mirbahar of DRI and the speakers were Vladimir Pran (Elections Expert, DRI), Dr. Fouzia Hameed (MNA, MQM), Rashid Chaudry (FAFEN), Shabbir Ahmed Director (IFES), Naeema Kishwar Khan (JUI-F) and Shmyla Khan representing Digital Rights Foundation.

Technology in Elections panel

The discussion delved into the issues of technology in the electoral process; the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), biometric verification systems and a  results management system through the prism of transparency, efficiency, cyber security and voter confidentiality.

RightsCon Summit, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation hosted four sessions at the RightsCon Summit 2017 held from March 29th to March 31st (and Day 0 on March 28th) in Brussels, Belgium. The conference is the world's leading event dedicated towards digital rights and brings together digital rights activists, journalists, policy makers, corporate personnel to discuss the future of the internet.


DRF hosted panels ranging from topics such as “Surveillance and Privacy from the Margins”, online harassment with “Taking Matters into Our Hands: Addressing Online Harassment” and "Harassment Goes Deadly: the Global North vs Global South", and the future of the open internet with “Net Neutrality and its Future in the Developing World".

Here's a detailed post on what all was said and done at RightsCon.

International Contributions by DRF

This month was also a productive one in terms of DRF’s international contributions. Digital Rights Foundation has made submissions to the UNSG report on the Safety of Journalists, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report on ways to bridge Digital Gender Divide (DGD) from a human rights perspective and the Universal Periodic Review for Pakistan 2017 on the topic of “Gender rights in Pakistan: Online violence, free speech and access to information”. We look forward to having these submissions make their mark in the subsequent reports.

Here are the dedicated blog posts on each submission:
UPR Submission | Submission to OHCHR to Bridge DGD |
Submission to UNSG on the Safety of Journalists

Open Government Partnership Workshop: Lahore

OGP Logo

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) Consultation was held in Lahore on March 15, 2017. The event was hosted by Open Society Foundations, Digital Rights Foundation, Punjab Information Commission and Punjab Lok Sujag. The event was a multi-stakeholder initiative that brought together members of civil society, the business community and government together on issues of open government, transparency and accountability.

The discussion revolved around the themes of fiscal transparency, access to information, citizen engagement/public service delivery, use of digital, access to justice, strengthening accountability (government integrity/anti-corruption/asset disclosure) and improving business environment. The discussion urged the government towards more proactive disclosure of information, effective accountability mechanisms and more transparent budgeting.

OGP Photo
Speakers at the event were Nighat Dad (Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation), Shreya Basu (Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Asia Pacific, Open Government Partnership) and Natalia Tariq (Program Officer, Open Society Foundation, Pakistan).

Women's Day, 2017


International Women’s Day is celebrated throughout the world on March 8th. This year, on account of this day DRF started a social media campaign with the hashtag #BeingAWomanMeans. Women from across Pakistan participated in the campaign and held out charts expressing what it meant for them to be a woman. Team DRF visited Emporium Mall Lahore to ask women to participate in the campaign and start a conversation on the many and diverse aspects that they believe means to be a woman. The campaign also gained traction online and created quite the buzz.

Session on Online Harassment at NED University

Hija 2

On March 16, Hija Kamran represented Digital Rights Foundation at a seminar on Online Harassment conducted by NED University's Humanities department in Karachi. During the session, Hija talked to the students about online violence and many effects of the experience on the survivor/victim, including social, psychological, and emotional impact. She also talked about the Cyber Harassment Helpline that DRF launched in 2016; the need for the collective efforts towards countering online harassment, what are the mechanisms of reporting cyber harassment to LEAs, the laws around cybercrimes in Pakistan, and other importing factors to deal with the said harassment.

Seminar on Online Violence at Shirkat Gah, Lahore

On March 22nd, Shirkat Gah - Women’s Resource Center hosted a seminar on Online Violence and Engendering Digital Equality by International Human Rights Lawyer Ms Zarizana Abdul Aziz. DRF was the respondent at the event. Zarizana discussed the aspect of violence against women in detail and talked about the implications of the online world in the offline life. She covered topics like freedom of expression of women, consent and privacy.  The audience was very interactive and there were a lot of discussions regarding different privacy and consent related issues the members had personally faced.

Shirkat Gah

Fatima A. Athar and Jannat Fazal represented DRF and talked about the stigma surrounding women’s privacy issues, and discussed how and why it is so difficult for women to make their voices heard when it comes to violence against them.  They talked about the DRF helpline and various practices that need to be adopted in routine life to safeguard from violence against women in online and offline spaces and privacy concerns.

 Islamabad High Court case to block blasphemous content online


The Islamabad High Court has taken up a case regarding anti-Islamic material in online spaces by directing the Interior Minister, Ministry of Information Technology and Federal Investigation Authorities to take measures against such speech. The IHC ordered the Interior Ministry that if need be the entire social media should be blocked and strong action must be taken against anyone who is committing these crimes. The bench stated that due to these blasphemous posts being present online there are likely to be more cases like Mumtaz Qadri in which vigilantes take laws into their own hands. This has sparked a larger legal debate regarding social media websites and the responsibilities of these companies. As an extension of this, the government has threatened to block all social media websites if they don’t respond. Facebook has agreed to send a team to Pakistan to consult with the government--raising concerns regarding online speech.

The FIA has become quite active as well, it currently running television ads regarding the limits of free speech and three people have been arrested under charges of blasphemous content on the internet.



Censorship of electronic media was also a highlight this month. PEMRA has also been quite active around censorship of content on electronic media. DAWN TV’s program “Zara Hut Kay” was taken off air for three days for comments against a sitting judge at the IHC. The morning show GEO Pakistan has been suspended for five days for broadcasting “indecent content”. Furthermore, HUM TV was fined been fined Rs. 1 million for airing the episode by the title of “Chew Gum” for its drama series “Kitni Girhein Baqi Hein”.

April 4, 2017 - Comments Off on Yet Another Year at RightsCon, and It Was Big!

Yet Another Year at RightsCon, and It Was Big!

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) was at RightsCon - the world leading 3-day event to discuss the future of the internet - organised by Access Now from March 29 to March 31, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. During the event, DRF hosted four sessions that discussed different issues relating to the safe and fair access to the internet. As mentioned here, the sessions reflected on what all DRF had been doing the past whole year.

On March 28, Nighat Dad participated in the panel discussion at EU Parliament titled "Tech and Foreign Policy - Bridging the Gap: Focus on Digital Development" on Day 0 of Rights Con 2017. The discussion was live-streamed here.

The panel was moderated by Marietje Schaake (Member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands). The panelists were Nighat Dad (Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan, Time Next Generation Leader), Linda Corugedo Steneberg (DG Connect, European Commission) and Mitchel Baker (Mozilla, Internet Hall of Fame).

Nighat EU Parliament

The panel sought to discuss the direction of digital development with reference to principles of human rights, equality and net neutrality. The panelists also discussed the role of the European Union in encouraging digital development worldwide.

Nighat Dad spoke about the need to link digital rights to economic and trade incentives such as the GSP+ and other initiatives by monitoring human rights violations. Nighat also spoke about the shrinking digital spaces for dissent and activism in Pakistan, and the world in general. Talking about the global trends, she referred to the US laptop ban as a violation of digital rights stating that "it is not only a laptop ban, it's a Muslim laptop ban".

Nighat EU Parliament 2

Nighat shed light on extra-judicial measures to silence voices online: "this not self-censorship, it is forced censorship". She talked about the "draconian" cyber crime act passed in August 2016 and the effect that it has for journalism and free speech.

Nighat also talked about the need for social media companies to be transparent in their dealings with governments, urging them to be accountable to their users.

The first session titled “Taking Matters into Our Hands: Addressing Online Harassment Through [Tools]” took place on March 29, 2017. The panel discussed the different tools and strategies developed in different contexts to address online harassment. The panel was moderated by Wafa Ben Hassine - the Policy Analyst at Access Now, and the speakers included Nighat Dad - the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Elsa Saade - Human Rights Officer at Gulf Human Rights Center in Beirut, Gulsin Harman from, and Meg Hood - Rapid Response Coordinator for the Civil Society Centre for Digital Resilience.

During the session, Nighat Dad shared the tools and activities that Digital Rights Foundation has been introducing and implementing in Pakistan, including Pakistan’s first Cyber Harassment Helpline. Nighat emphasized on the fact that even though 60% of our callers are women, but the other 30% are men which depicts that online harassment affects everyone regardless of their gender identity.

Wafa Ben Hassine added that tools alone can’t address the issue of online harassment, but talking to people on ground can help in identifying where the problem lies.

Elsa Saade pointed out that while developing new tools would be a great approach, but it’s important to analyse why the already existing tools around addressing online harassment are failing.


Gulsin Harman shared that women journalists in Turkey face online harassment on a daily basis, and when they decide to report the harassment, they get harassed by the law enforcing agents themselves. While the situation isn’t different in Pakistan, this attitude and lack of gender sensitisation among the LEAs convince women to not speak about their experiences of online harassment.

Online harassment leaves a strong impact on the mental health of victim/survivor who experiences it, and the lack of awareness around the issue among people makes the experience more critical. Hija Kamran of Digital Rights Foundation adds that while access to the internet and technology is necessary, awareness around the informed use of that technology becomes crucial too.

The second session that Digital Rights Foundation was about an issue that’s not very debated in the context of Pakistan, but holds a great importance towards the access to the internet. The session titled “Net Neutrality and its Future in the Developing World” was taken place on March 30, 2017. The panel was moderated by Raman Jit Singh Chima - Policy Director at Access Now, and the speakers included Gbenga Sesan - Executive Director at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Agustin Reyna - Senior Legal Officer at BEUC, Apar Gupta and Kiran Jonnalagadda - Co-Founders of Internet Freedom Foundation India, Serene Lim - APC Impact Coordinator for Malaysia, and Nighat Dad - Executive Director at Digital Rights Foundation.

NN Panel Poster


The panelists discussed the many aspects of Net Neutrality and why is it important to talk about it.

Apar Gupta, who is the volunteering founder of the remarkable campaign #savetheinternet in India and the Co-Founder of Internet Freedom Foundation said that Net Neutrality should not be taken as a separate issue and should not be left for another time, but instead it should be discussed as part of the larger debate.

Hija Kamran of Digital Rights Foundation adds that open access to the internet is a human right and it should be granted to everyone in a fair and open form without prioritising one content over the other.

Apar Gupta and Kiran Jonnalagadda also added that the Government of India received 1.2 million responses on their Net Neutrality public consultation, which also included a love letter. The government published all those responses for the public to access.

Gbenga Sesan added that the government needs to be convinced that infrastructure isn’t just about building the roads but also about technological access too.

When asked how the concept of Net Neutrality can be communicated with those who are not on the internet but have access to the technology, Agustin Reyna responded that you need to communicate in their own language, the right language for them to understand better.


Raman Jit Singh Chima asks the important question: Do people need a triggering event to safeguard the rights like Net Neutrality considering that internet is an open platform and it should be provided to all without paid prioritisation of content.

Surveillance Panel Poster

The third session hosted by Digital Rights Foundation revolved around discussing Surveillance and Privacy from the Margins. The session took place on March 30, 2017. It was moderated by Jessica Dheere, the co-founder and co-director of SMEX, and the panelists included Nighat Dad, David Kaye - UNSR on Freedom of Expression, Bruce Schneier - world renowned cryptographer, Chinmayi Arun - Research Director at National Law University Delhi India, Courtney Radsch - Advocacy Director at Committee to Protect Journalists, and Carolina Botero - Director at Karisma Foundation.


The panel aimed at discussing the gendered nature of surveillance and intended to acknowledge that the experience of surveillance is not uniform, i.e. it depends on the identity of the person being surveilled. Through this panel we want to understand the particular kinds of surveillance experienced by women and the sexualized and gendered ways in which it manifests itself when applied to women's bodies.

The panel also discussed privacy as security and how data protection and privacy laws need to be strengthened and how a breach of privacy can have dire consequences for individuals.


Jessica Dheere kick-started the panel by asking some very important questions about how surveillance changes based on the power dynamics and how does it affect the people of colour and minorities in any society?

Courtney Radsch added the experience from journalist's’ perspective, saying that it leads to self-censorship.

She also discussed the increased surveillance on US border that violates people’s right to privacy.

Nighat Dad added the perspective of Surveillance and Privacy in the context Pakistan and used Qandeel Baloch - the slain social media celebrity - example that her murder was incited after her privacy was violated by the mainstream and social media.

She also added that the increased surveillance is promoted by the easy availability of surveillance technology that widespread the practice.

Bruce Shneier - Image Courtesy @AToker

Bruce Schneier discussed the technical aspects of surveillance and said that it’s not easy to track the small surveillance technologies. He also added that power dynamics play a major role in the context of surveillance and that it often gets lost in the discussions.

Bruce also added that surveillance is almost unavoidable and is used as a weapon. He also emphasized that your mobile phone and camera is someone else tracking device. He added that it should also be viewed from the perspective of refugees and minorities.

Whereas, David Kaye added that there are different kinds of surveillance like state surveillance, non-state surveillance, social surveillance, and others, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid targeted surveillance.


David Kaye - Image Courtesy @AToker

He emphasized on the fact that the current law and order situation of the world reduces people’s right to privacy and restricts their anonymity. He also added that surveillance is the issue of the masses and not just of targeted groups.

Kaye urges that surveillance will continue but what’s important is that people keep pushing governments to justify it on human rights grounds. He furthered his talk by adding that journalists, women, LGBT community are most harmed by surveillance.

Harassment Goes Deadly Panel Poster

The fourth and last panel of Digital Rights Foundation at RightsCon talked about online harassment in the global north vs global south. The panel titled “Harassment Goes Deadly: the Global North vs Global South” took place on March 31, 2017. The panel was moderated by Bishakha Datta - Co-Founder of Point of View India, and the panelists included Hera Hussain - Co-Founder of Chayn Labs, Nanjira Sambuli - Digital Equality Advocacy Manager for World Wide Web Foundation, Emily May - Co-Founder and Executive Director at HollaBack, Japleen Pasricha - Founder of Feminism in India, Susan Benesch - Project Director at Dangerous Speech Project, and Nighat Dad - Executive Director at Digital Rights Foundation.

The panel was live streamed by Chayn Labs on their Facebook page and it aimed at discussing online violence which is usually seen as a problem for the so-called “backward societies” around the world. The narrative goes that women and vulnerable communities in the third world are particularly susceptible to honour and gender-based crimes. High profile cases of online harassment leading to violence in offline spaces is seen as a reflection of an entire culture in the Global South, whereas it is couched in less cultural and societal terms in the North. The fact of the matter is that online violence against women is a global and universal problem.


This panel discussed the realities of online violence which are as serious a problem in the Global North as they are in the Global South.

Bishakha Datta started the discussion with the introduction of the panel followed by the talk by Hera Hussain. According to Hera, Chayn is operating in 12 countries, a lot changes with geography but online harassment is common everywhere. She added that women are particularly vulnerable on social media to the point that they often end up making multiple profile. n Pakistan, women get killed for getting harassed online.

Because Hera works in multiple societies both from global north and global south, she added that the only difference in experiences of online harassment in the north vs south is that the people in the developed part of the world are more aware and know how to react to a certain situation.

Japleen Pasricha did a research on online violence in 2016, where she interviewed around 500 women in India. According to her, online violence isn’t just receiving photos of penis in your inbox or unsolicited content. In fact online violence is also getting trolled for days which often results in the victim/survivor leaving the social media sphere for days.

Japleen says that she uses the word ‘violence’ because online harassment is a form of violence where the victim or the survivor experiences a huge level of emotional and psychological stress that can’t be explained by any other term than ‘violence’.

Nighat Dad furthered the discussion by questioning the inadequate steps taken by the social media companies to counter online harassment. She said that the reason why Digital Rights Foundation started the cyber Harassment Helpline was because there was no help available to the victims of cyber harassment, not on state level, not from the social media companies. And the fact that it leaves a serious impact on the mental health of the victim, steps have to be taken by someone.

Nanjira Sambuli believes that online harassment is a lifelong issue, and what the survivors and those working on countering the issue requires is support from the people around them and in their societies. The solutions around countering online harassment should have sustainable models. She further added that women, in Kenya, are ranked on the basis of how pretty they are rather than how capable or successful they are.

Susan Benesch asks how can the impact of harassment on women be lessen and the cost of harassing a women be increased? She says that there’s not just one kind of harassers. There are people who are dedicated harassers, who wake up in the morning to troll someone online with malicious intent. Then there are people who jump the bandwagon, they see others causing verbal and psychological harm to someone, they start doing it as well.

Bishakha Datta pointed out that in India, women are asked to leave social media if they’re getting harassed online. Leaving social media to avoid online harassment is like asking women to not go out to avoid street harassment. The need is to address the problem and then counter it from the very roots.

This concluded another successful participation of Digital Rights Foundation at RightsCon. With that being said, we hope to take these important discussions forward and into the real world to take solution-led steps towards countering the issues pertaining to digital rights.

Written by Hija Kamran

April 3, 2017 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation at Internet Freedom Festival, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation at Internet Freedom Festival, 2017

Digital Rights Foundation participated in and was a partner at the Internet Freedom Festival (2017) held from March 6th to March 10th in Valencia, Spain. The primary agenda of the meeting was “joining forces to fight censorship and surveillance”. The event was a brought together digital rights activists, software developers, digital security trainers, communication professionals, journalists and designers from around the world bringing together their varied experiences and perspectives. The main themes for the event were community, training & best practices, internet freedom: present and future, tools & technology, regions & groups, communications & design and journalism & media.

Panels hosted by Digital Rights Foundation:

Surveillance from the Margins: Different Experiences of Surveillance

The panel discussed the different ways in which surveillance and surveilling agents discriminate on the basis of identity. The discussion revolved around the ways in which surveillance is experienced differently on the basis of gender, race, class, sexuality, ability and political/ideological views.

Nighat Dad (DRF)

Bill Markzak (Citizen Lab)
Thenmozhi Soundararajan (Equality Lab)
Cheekay Cinco (Digital security trainer)
Stephanie Lacambra (EFF)

Taking Matters into Our Hands: Addressing Online Harassment

The panel discussed the different tools and strategies developed in different contexts to address online harassment. The discussion was action and policy-oriented, looking to discuss solutions. DRF talked about the successful launch of its Cyber Harassment Helpline and shared its work around tackling online harassment with an international audience.

Nighat Dad “(DRF)

Shauna Dillavou
Lindsay Beck (OTF)
Meerim Ilyas (UAF)
Meg Hood

Data protection law and its different manifestations

The panel discussed the different kinds of data protection laws all over the world. The discussion was pivoted towards potential legislation in countries where there is a dearth of laws or inadequate legislation.

Nica Dumlao (EngageMedia)

Mohamad Najem (Smex)
Nighat Dad (DRF)
Wafa bin Hussain (AccessNow)
Sarath M S  (SFLC)