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October 6, 2023 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation at the Internet Governance Forum 2023

Digital Rights Foundation at the Internet Governance Forum 2023

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), will be attending and speaking at the 18th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, hosted by the Government of Japan in Kyoto from 8th to 12th October 2023. The overarching theme of the convening this year will be - The Internet We Want - Empowering All People, which aims to create a digital world that is inclusive, equitable, and safe for individiuals across the globe. IGF provides multistakeholder avenues for civil society, private companies, technical communities and  governments from around the world to come together and discuss key digital rights  themes like emerging technologies and AI, misinformation and disinformation, data protection, privacy, content moderation, online gender based violence amongst others.

DRF has had a longstanding history of working around these key themes from the Asia Pacific region and will be making important interventions and contributions in the conference this year on gendered disinformation, governing AI and algorithmic bias and platform accountability.

Here’s a list of sessions we’ll be part of and to keep a lookout for at IGF this year where you can meet us:

Global South perspectives on governing AI | Lightning Talk

IGF Day 0 | Sunday, 8th October

1:50 PM - 2:10 PM PKT | 17:50 - 18:10 JST

Hyra Basit, Program Manager Cyber Harassment Helpline and Aqsa Javed, Legal Associate

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is rapidly evolving with its integration into our lives and governing all aspsects of our lives one way or the other.  AI and emerging technologies are developing and transforming various sectors of society at an unprecedented rate and even though this advancement brings about various positive outcomes, it is important to recognize that these trends can have potential threats to privacy rights and online user data safety.

DRF will be presenting a lightning talk around the different governing models and mechanisms being adopted by the Global majority to regulate AI. The lightning talk will also be shedding light on how regulations imposed by countries in the global majority particularly South Asia are not necessarily following fundamental human rights principles and the right to privacy.

This lightning talk will serve as an opportunity to explore current legal frameworks and their human rights implications in the ever evolving world of AI.

For further details click here.

Networking for Information Integrity in Asia and Globally

IGF Day 3 | Wednesday, 11th October

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM PKT | 3:15 PM - 4:15 PM JST

Hyra Basit, Program Manager Cyber Harassment Helpline DRF will be speaking on this panel and Seerat Khan, Program Lead DRF will be moderating it

DRF will be speaking at the National Democratic Insituties (NDI) session on ‘Networking for Information Integrity in Asia and Globally’. The session will highlight the work of NDI’s “Info/tegrity Network” which is a network of individuals and civil society organizations throughout Asia, as well as globally working together to promote the integrity of the information space. DRF’s Program Manager Hyra Basit will be a speaker at the session highlighting the work of the cyber harassment helpline as a resource for activists, human rights defenders and journalists by providing recourse and help around online safety, legal procedures and psycho-social well-being. DRF will also be highlighting its mental health toolkit for journalists and its manuals developed around fact checking and source verification to debunk misinformation and disinformation online.

For further details of the session click here.

Viewing Disinformation from a Global Governance Perspective

IGF Day 3 | Wednesday, 11th October

9:00 AM - 10:30 AM PKT | 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM JST

Nighat Dad, Executive Director DRF

DRF will be part of a workshop organized by Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Berlin Social Science Center and then Columbia Institute for Tele-Information on ‘Viewing Disinformation from a Global Governance Perspective’. The workshop will be looking to tackle the problem of disinformation and providing solutions around the evolving global Internet governance system with respect to human rights and an internsectional approach. DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad, will be a speaker at the workshop addressing disinformation and the harms caused by disinformation in the Asia Pacific region with the rise of gendered disinformation in the region. She will also be highlighting governance initiatves around disinformation and the need for existing international instruments in governing disinformation in online spaces.

For furhter details click here.

Our commitment to driving conversations about the future of the internet will be reflected in our active participation in these interventions. These discussions will  help us advance our mission of creating a more equitable and inclusive digital landscape across the globe.

We look forward to meeting and having multistakeholder dialogues together for the , Internet We Want that empowers all people particiularly people residing in the global majority.

You can register online to attend IGF 2023 here.

About DRF

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is a women-led, not-for-profit organisation based in Pakistan working on digital freedoms since 2013. DRF envisions a place where all people, especially women and gender minorities, can exercise their right of expression without being threatened. DRF believes that a free internet with access to information and impeccable privacy policies can create safe online spaces for not only women but the world at large.

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 Girls@Dhabas Condemn the Cyber Harassment of Amar Sindhu and Arfana Mallah

Digital Rights Foundation and Girls@Dhabas 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 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)