All Posts in Press Releases

November 05, 2019 - Comments Off on Pakistan ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House in the 2019 Freedom on the Net Report for eight years in a row

Pakistan ranked as “Not Free” by Freedom House in the 2019 Freedom on the Net Report for eight years in a row

Freedom House released its Freedom on the Net (FoTN) report for the year 2019, titled “The Crisis of Social Media” to reflect the plethora of issues emerging on social media. The report finds an overall decline in global internet freedom for the ninth consecutive year in 2019. It is noted that while “social media at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamental freedoms.” The report focuses on developments that occurred between June 2018 till May 2019.

Pakistan’s ranking on the report remains “Not Free” for the coverage period, with its score decreasing from 27 to 26. Internet freedom declined during this report’s coverage period due to authorities’ increased blocking of political, social, and cultural websites. The general election environment in July 2018 saw connectivity restrictions and increased disinformation. Meanwhile, authorities upped their efforts to silence critical journalists and activists using a range of techniques. Users were again sentenced to death on charges of posting blasphemous content online, although their convictions are under appeal. 

The report for Pakistan was authored by Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and evaluated through the methodology developed by Freedom House. The report methodology assesses 65 countries across the world, based on three broad criteria: obstacles to access; limits on content; and violations of user rights. Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of DRF, stated that “the score this year is the culmination of short-term and regressive policies by successive governments. Years worth of draconian legislation and investment in structures that stymie freedom of expression have led to an environment where the internet in Pakistan is more unsafe and less inclusive.”

Key developments during the coverage period include:
  • Authorities shut down mobile and internet service during protests and in the lead-up to the July 2018 general elections, in both populous cities and less developed regions.
  • Over 800,000 websites hosting political, religious, and social content remain blocked. Voice of America’s websites in Urdu and Pashto were temporary inaccessible during the coverage period, as was the website of the leftist Awami Workers Party.
  • Inauthentic content and automated accounts impacted the online landscape. It emerged, for instance, that bots supporting various political parties surfaced ahead of the July 2018 general elections, while Facebook removed content it claimed to be linked to the Pakistani military’s public relations department.
  • In December 2018, two brothers were sentenced to death for blasphemy, for allegedly sharing “disrespectful material” about the prophet Mohammad on their website in 2011.
  • The government increased social media monitoring, announcing a new system to target extremism, hate speech, and anti-national content. The announcement came a month before the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into journalists and activists supporting murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi on social media.
  • Activists and bloggers faced physical attacks and death threats during the coverage period, while several journalists were booked under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
The full report can be accessed here. Pakistan’s country-specific report is available here: https://www.freedomonthenet.org/country/pakistan/freedom-on-the-net/2019.

#FreedomOnTheNet

October 27, 2019 - Comments Off on Hearing at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights regarding Privacy and Harassment

Hearing at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights regarding Privacy and Harassment

On 25 October 2019, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), along with members of civil society and student activists, got a chance to brief the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights’ session on the issue of the University of Balochistan in light of privacy, surveillance of campuses and harassment in educational institutes. Along with the acting Vice-Chancellor of the University, student representatives were given a chance to put forward their demands. The Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Khawar Mumtaz, academic & activist Arfana Mallah and Shmyla Khan from DRF gave their recommendations to the Committee.

The facts presented in front of the Committee stated that 92 surveillance cameras had been installed by the university, however, in light of an investigation ordered by the Balochistan High Court, a total of eight unauthorized cameras were found. These cameras were used to record footage of students without their consent and resulted in blackmailing of students at the hands of the administration. The Senators expressed shock and called for accountability of the senior administration of the university, particularly the VC Dr. Iqbal Javed who stepped down after the incident gained national prominence. It was also revealed the University has no harassment committee as per the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act and the HEC’s Policy Guidelines against Sexual Harassment in Institutions of Higher Learning.

The two student representatives from Quetta highlighted that campuses in Balochistan are highly militarized and controlled spaces. There exists an atmosphere of fear that allows for incidents such as these to remain unreported for years. They demanded that there should be accountability for all involved, to prevent scapegoating of a few individuals instead of addressing the systemic information. They demanded that there should be a ban all arms and ammunition inside university campuses and surveillance cameras should be restricted to the outer gates of campuses. They also stated that a committee for harassment should be set up immediately and given adequate independence and powers. According to the Balochistan Ombudsperson on Workplace Harassment, only one university in the province has a harassment committee in place. The students asked that the ban on student unions should be lifted to allow for organizing on campuses.

Arfana Mallah stated that this issue not confined to one campus or part of the country. There is dearth of women in places of higher education, with women constituting only 20% of the student population and faculty in universities. She demanded that gender audits of educational institutes should be conducted and gender parity should be taken into account when university rankings are conducted. Arfana explained that the CCTV cameras installed under the 2007 HEC directive has resulted in moral policing of students as the camera ends up replicating a patriarchal gaze.

Shmyla from DRF pointed out the need for the protection of the Constitutional right to privacy through a comprehensive personal data protection legislation that shifts the balance of power between the user and data controllers. DRF recommended that cameras from campuses should be removed until HEC develops strong regulation and SOPs for cameras and the data collected. In order to ensure that campuses become critical spaces, it is important to strengthen harassment committees and to closely monitor their progress.

Several senators expressed shock at the state of affairs at universities. Senator Ayesha Raza termed the actions of the university admin as criminal negligence. She also iterated the need for gender parity on committees tasked with addressing harassment. Senator Saif noted that consent-based surveillance should be implemented and stressed the importance of regulation of citizen’s data collected by both private and public bodies.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, decided that a two-pronged approach will be tacked in address the matter. Firstly, in the short term, the Committee will closely monitor the investigation of the incident and the next meeting of the Committee will be held inside the University of Balochistan campus. He also noted that the deployment of security forces at campuses should be reviewed across the country. In the long term approach, HEC will be directed to develop a policy framework to ensure fundamental rights at educational institutions. He recommended that gender rankings be made part of annual rankings issued by the HEC. The Chairperson echoed the demand for restoration of student unions. He also highlighted the urgent need for a data protection law in Pakistan. Senator Khokhar promised that the committee will continue to monitor the FIA proceedings into the privacy violations at the University of Balochistan.

We commend the committee for taking up the issue and framing it as an issue of privacy violations and harassment of female bodies. We hope that they will continue to follow up on these promises. 

October 17, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation expresses solidarity with students of University of Balochistan

Digital Rights Foundation expresses solidarity with students of University of Balochistan

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) is alarmed by the incident of surveillance, blackmailing and harassment of female and male students in the University of Balochistan. We express solidarity with students protesting the incident and demanding accountability. The policing and surveillance of student bodies, particularly women, is condemned in the strongest possible terms and we call for strict action to be taken to ensure the dignity and safety of students on campuses across Pakistan.

Universities should ideally be spaces for critical thinking and freedom of expression, however due to neglect and regressive policies they have become spaces of harassment and repression for students. It is a well known fact that students’ bodies are regularly policed and surveilled by university administrations. Surveillance measures, justified under the pretext of safety to students were exasperated during the war on terror. Recently, CCTV cameras have been installed on campuses under the grab of anti-drug measures. It is unfortunate that the technology employed in the name of protecting students is often used to monitor and harass the very people it professes to protect. These systems of surveillance have become tools to monitor and silence dissent and political speech on campus, seen recently in the temporary expulsion of students from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, UAF for social media posts criticising the university administration.

Female, including feminised, bodies on campus are often subjected to the objectifying gaze of surveillance technology. Mechanisms and technology introduced under paternalistic logic results in the moral policing of women, restricting their right to gender expression and sexuality. Surveillance in public spaces such as campuses is rarely used to enable the freedoms of women, rather it tends to replicate paternalistic models of surveillance prevalent in private spaces, restricting their autonomy. There have been countless cases of data breaches from university databases in which women’s private information is weaponised to target and harass them. The women at the University of Balochistan know this all too well as they were blackmailed and harassed on the basis of their gender. Their consent was repeatedly violated as secret cameras installed by university administrative staff recorded videos of their activities without their knowledge.

It is imperative that we don’t look at cases of policing on campuses in a vacuum. While patriarchal norms and society inform this policing, the underlying infrastructure is laid out by authoritarian strands within the state and a global capital economy that profits from monitoring and dataveillance. This system is invested in not only creating consumers for capital but also to increasingly silence citizens by relinquishing their civil liberties.

The right to privacy is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right and an intrinsic part of citizen’s personal liberties. The Constitution of Pakistan enshrines the right to privacy as a fundamental right in Article 14(1) stating that "[t]he dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable.” The University of Balochistan case is a gross infringement upon this very fundamental right of students. The incident also highlights the lack of redressal available for ordinary citizens to hold institutions accountable for violations of privacy. The fact that Pakistan does not have a robust personal data protection law means that there is no legal mechanism available to make the constitutional right to privacy justiciable. 

While steps have been taken to investigate the incident, measures and safeguards should be in place to ensure that those responsible are held accountable. Additionally, the committee constituted by the provincial assembly of Balochistan to probe the matter lacks adequate gender representation, as only two members of the committee are women (notices to constitute the committee are attached as Annex A). We urge the government to guarantee the right to privacy of citizens by passing progressive data protection legislation. The draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications is a positive step, but the legislation of the Act should be a consultative and inclusive process. We urge that women and gender minorities be placed at the center of any effort to provide protection to citizens. We welcome the announcement by the Chief Minister of Balochistan to constitute anti-harassment special committees in all universities across the province, however meaningful implementation will require regular follow-up and investing resources into the process

Notices obtained from verified Twitter account of member of provincial assembly, Sanaullah Baloch. Mr. Baloch is also a member of the Committee.

September 27, 2019 - Comments Off on Qandeel Baloch case judgement: The crime of Covey

Qandeel Baloch case judgement: The crime of Covey

Honour killing is a collective crime, a crime that unifies the patriarchal: legal apparatuses and structures, society and the family system.

When Qandeel Baloch was murdered in the name of honour by her own brother in 2016, the question of her getting justice felt urgent and immensely important. Qandeel was murdered as a direct result of asserting her sexuality online, the visibility had cost her, her life. In the wake of her death, many women identified with what she represented: a working class Pakistani woman who asserted herself.

After more than three years of the investigation and trial of Qandeel Baloch’s honour killing, the Model Court in Multan sentenced Muhammad Waseem to 25 years of imprisonment under section 311 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The other accused in the case stood acquitted, including her brothers Aslam Shaheen and Muhammad Arif as well as Haqnawaz, Muhammad Mufti Abdul Qavi, Abdul Basit and Muhammad Zafar. The judge endorsed the prosecution’s case for Muhammad Waseem, relying on his judicial confession and DNA evidence.

On the other hand, the other accused, such as Haqnawaz who also confessed to the crime, were acquitted as the judge deemed their confessions as extra-judicial and the recoveries made insufficient corroborative evidence. This speaks to the gaps in the investigation and prosecution, a trend common in cases of gender-based violence. Although Multan has been the beneficiary of support in terms Violence Against Women Center (VAWC) since Qandeel’s murder with the aim of improving investigation and prosecution, there is a serious need to replicate and institutionalise these efforts. It is essential that investigations and prosecution proceedings account for the integral role co-conspirators play in a crime. They might not be the hands that strangle the throat but they definitely are the patriarchal voices that enable those hands.

It is important to note that while Qandeel’s parents attempted to pardon the accused Waseem and Aslam Shaheen through a section 345 CrPC application, the application was declined by the judge. Violence against women’s bodies is a crime against society, a violation felt by all women. The judgment emphasises that this was not a case of blind murder but rather a result of perceived disrepute on the family honour. It is important to acknowledge that violence against women’s bodies is not gender-neutral, but as a result of their gendered bodies and their place within the patriarchal structure--the acknowledgment of her murder as honour crime goes a long way in achieving this. Additionally, Qandeel’s case struck home for us as she reclaimed online spaces to assert her sexuality; in a society where women have limited access to public spaces, the importance of women’s right to pleasure is a political and feminist cause.

We would agitate the state to appeal the acquittals of the accused immediately. Additionally, we petition the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) to pursue the appeal with urgency and care. We placed our faith in state institutions to deliver justice for Qandeel, and the fact that it took three years for her trial to end speaks volumes of the delays and obstacles to justice inherent in our judicial system. We also call for police reform based on investigation of gender-based crimes to improve the process of evidence collection, recovery and prosecution of these crimes so that justice is served fully in future cases. Lastly, the pressure on Qandeel’s parents and their vulnerability in the face of lack of financial support meant that they recanted their support for the prosecution, despite nominating their sons themselves in the initial reporting of the case. More needs to be done to provide support and protection to families of victims who are left behind, to shield them from political and social pressure as well as economic coercion.

Qandeel Baloch case judgement

BRIEF OF FACTS & JUDGEMENT

August 28, 2019 - Comments Off on 66 women’s rights, human rights, digital rights and feminists groups endorse statement on internet blackout in Kashmir

66 women’s rights, human rights, digital rights and feminists groups endorse statement on internet blackout in Kashmir

We, a coalition of 66 women's rights, human rights, digital rights and feminists groups, condemn in the strongest possible terms the blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, movement and peaceful assembly by the Indian government through a blanket network and internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir since the evening of August 4, 2019. We believe that access to communication networks, including the internet, is a fundamental human right and the current media blackout is tantamount to silencing the voices of millions of residents in Jammu and Kashmir.

We recognise that the current situation is not an aberration, it is rather part of a systematic effort by the BJP-led government to silence and exclude dissent from the region: the current internet and network shutdown is part of larger pattern of regular shutdowns in the disputed region; in 2019 alone 51 internet shutdowns have been imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. The right to access communication networks is an important prerequisite to the exercise to other democratic and fundamental rights, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been systematically denied these rights.

It worries us that the latest shutdown has been expanded to block all communication, landline phones and cable TV in addition to the internet. Since August 4, 2019 there has been a complete media blackout on information inside and outside the conflict-ridden valley, in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has been ratified by India:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

The humanitarian impact of this blackout is palatable as family members have been unable to reach their loved ones inside Jammu and Kashmir. Freedom of movement has also severely restricted as curfew imposed under section 144 to stop movement during the day. These restrictions have thwarted the access basic services such as emergency medical care--the human cost of this blackout is immeasurable. Businesses in the region have suffered irreparable losses, devastating the local economy. 5,000 arrests have been made in a clampdown since the communications blackout started.

This communication blackout has been instrumentalized to remove a provision (Article 370) of the Indian Constitution that directly impacts the autonomy of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We are extremely concerned that the pairing of the blackout with the passage of the constitutional amendment points towards a dangerous and draconian approach to democratic decision-making--the people of region cannot express their opinions regarding the decision and possibly have no way of knowing that the legal status of their home has drastically changed. We believe that communication networks during times of conflict and political turmoil are important to prevent further human rights violations and arbitrary measures. Given the excesses of the Indian army in the past, the lack of information and reporting from the region is extremely concerning.

We also condemn the uneven application of community guidelines and content regulation by social media companies such as Twitter to silence users critiquing the official narrative of the Modi-led Indian government and amplifying the voices of Kashmiris on the ground. According to estimates, more than 200 Twitter accounts have been suspended for posting about Kashmir. Furthermore notices have been sent to Twitter users for allegedly “violating the laws of India”. At a time when voices of people from the region are being systematically excluded, these suspensions and notices amount to gross negligence on the part of social media companies.

The United Nations has termed this communications blackout as “unprecedented”, “disproportionate” and constituting “collective punishment”. David Kaye, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, stated: “I can’t recall a situation where there has been a total blackout of not only the two-way, multi-point communication systems that we are familiar with now – anything on the internet, WhatsApp etc – but also the one-direction communications like TV”.

We urge that urgent and strict action be taken by the international community to address the international law violations. We demand that the blanket ban on communication network be lifted with immediate effect. We stand in solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their legitimate struggle for the right to determination.

August 28, 2019

Signatories:

Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS) 
ASR Resource Centre 
Association for Behavior and Knowledge Transformation (ABKT) 
Aurat Foundation
Aurat Haq
Aurat March Karachi
Aurat March Lahore
AwazFoundationPakistan: Centre for Development Services 
Baidarie 
Balochistan Media Association
Beaconhouse National University Feminist Community
Bolo Bhi, Pakistan
Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) 
Center for Artificial Intelligence
Center for Cyber Security Pakistan 
Center for Cyber Security Pakistan 
Centre for Social Justice 
Channan 
Christian Muslim Peace 
Combine FiOS
Courting the Law, Pakistan
Damen Support Programme
DCHD 
Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Pakistan
Farmers Development Organization FDO Pakistan
Freedom Network 
Girls at Dhabas
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan 
Human Rights Defenders United for Digital Rights
Institute for Peace and Secular Studies 
Institute of Research, Advocacy and development (IRADA), Pakistan
Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan 
Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan 
Joint Action Committee 
Khwendo kor
Media Matters for Democracy 
Minorities Rights Watch 
Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights
Omar Asghar Khan Foundation 
Pakistan Press Foundation 
Participatory Welfare Services - PWS
Participatory Welfare Services, Layyah
Peasants women society Pakistan 
Quetta City Live
Shirkat Gah - Women’s Resource Centre 
Social Action Transformation of Humanity (SATH Pakistan)
South Asia Partnership - Pakistan 
SPACE (Sufism for Peace & Co-existence)
Sungi 
Takhleeq Foundation

Tehrik-e-Niswan
The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF)
The SAWERA Foundation 

War Against Rape (WAR), Lahore
WISE 
Women Action Forum Hyderabad 
Women Action Forum Islamabad 
Women Action Forum Karachi 
Women Action Forum Lahore 
Women Democratic Front 
Women’s Regional Network
Youth Observatory Pakistan

International Organisations 

Afro Leadership Cameroon
Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
Freedom Forum Nepal
Internet Sans Frontières
NetBlocks

July 22, 2019 - Comments Off on DRF and PUAN conducted a five-day residency ‘Creating Leaders for a Better Digital Society’ in Lahore

DRF and PUAN conducted a five-day residency ‘Creating Leaders for a Better Digital Society’ in Lahore

To support a safer and healthier digital society in Pakistan, the Pakistan- U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN) in collaboration with Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) held a five-day master class in residence, “Creating Leaders for a Better Digital Society” in Lahore from 17th June till 21st June. This in-depth training program provided 36 alumni of U.S. government exchange programs from across Pakistan with the necessary tools and skills in digital literacy and citizenship to become leaders in creating a better digital society.

U.S. Consul General Colleen Crenwelge, who spoke with the participants on the last day of the workshop stated, “The U.S. government is delighted to support the Digital Rights Foundation’s efforts to inform the public about online rights and responsibilities.”

Developments in digital communications have had profound effects on the world in which we live. Though technological advances have driven economic growth and facilitated global connectivity, these developments come hand in hand with its demerits. Free, instant access to global news on the internet has brought with it the threat of widespread disinformation; the miracles of e-commerce have been accompanied by the scourge of identity theft; and while social media has made it easier for us to maintain global networks of friends, it has also facilitated online harassment and cyberbullying. We have also repeatedly seen the effects of online spaces in our lives offline which shows how integration of the internet with our lives is quite real. The five-day residency engaged the participants in various activities, discussions and group work and also touched upon the importance of online safety and security.

Thanking the U.S Consulate for their support, Nighat Dad said, “We are hopeful that our collective efforts to mainstream digital rights will create leaders amongst PUAN’s alumni who will benefit their communities and play a significant role in making online spaces safe. Digital rights have been excluded from the basic human rights framework until now and through trainings like these we will be able to make people more aware about the evolving online threats like cyber harassment, cyber bullying, fake news and disinformation and hate speech.”

Contact person: 
Seerat Khan 
Advocacy and Outreach Manager 

 

March 29, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Rights Foundation launches report on Female Journalists in new media: Experiences, challenges and a gendered approach

Digital Rights Foundation launches report on Female Journalists in new media: Experiences, challenges and a gendered approach

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has launched its report on the gendered, online harassment that female journalists face in the media and how this resonates in their offline spaces in the report titled, ‘Female Journalists in new media: Experiences, challenges and a gendered approach’. The report aims to generate a much needed debate around the problems that women journalists face in the new media and how they often have to take a step back from the media due to their vulnerable position in the field.

The report records the experiences of female journalists in a qualitative manner in order to understand the kind of harassment and intimidation women face in the digital platforms due to their work. It also explains how online violence of female journalists translates into offline violence. The report talks about how there are numerous issues that women face in their field like trivialization of gendered issues by their male counterparts and limited support from media houses and institutions.

Highlighting the findings of the report, DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad, notes that “It is extremely hard for women in the media to move ahead in their careers due to the gendered harassment that they face both in the online and offline spheres. Women are often the subject of criticism in the field and they are usually judged on their looks and clothing as compared to the work they do.” She adds that, “The first step towards trying to eradicate this problem of online harassment of female journalists is acknowledging that due to the emergence and more usage of digital platforms for journalism, women are subjected to gendered harassment online, as opposed to their male counterparts."

According to DRF’s findings most women are excluded from press clubs because of their gender and are usually subjected to criticism by their families and society if they want to move ahead in their careers. The report also mentions the impact of cyber harassment on women in the media and how women usually end up self censoring or leaving the media because of being subjected to criticism by the public.

DRF also has recommendations to the state, media houses, civil society and press clubs in the country and how these spaces need to be more inclusive and adopt an approach to protect women if they are subjected to abuse or harassment online.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

October 16, 2018 - Comments Off on Press Release: Digital Rights Foundation’s Cyber Harassment Helpline releases it’s bi-annual report

Press Release: Digital Rights Foundation’s Cyber Harassment Helpline releases it’s bi-annual report

15 October, 2018 - Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), a non-profit organization, has released its Cyber Harassment Helpline: Bi Annual Report (December 2016 - May 2018) - a significant launch that marks the ongoing success in the battle against cyber harassment and abuse.

The report is a compilation of data collected by the Helpline which highlights the nature and extent of the problem of online harassment. The report also contains recommendations for public bodies to improve their institutional response to online harassment.

The Cyber Harassment Helpline was launched on December 1, 2016 and it is Pakistan’s first dedicated helpline that addresses issues of online abuse and violence by providing a free, safe, gender-sensitive and confidential service. It provides legal advice, digital security support, psychological counselling and referral network to victims of online harassment and abuse. The toll free number [0800-39393] is available everyday from 9am to 5pm.

“The past 1.5 years have solidified our conviction of working towards a tangible movement that results in a safe and secure online space for both women and men. We pledge to continue to provide victims a safe arena where they can share their experiences and become empowered to have control over their situation and continue to make informed  decisions.” - Nighat Dad

This report celebrates the 1.5 year milestone of the helpline and during this time, the helpline received 1,908 calls from December 1, 2016 till May 30, 2018. The helpline is operational everyday including Saturday and Sunday with an average of 83 calls each month where callers came forward with their stories and complaints.

63% of the calls at the Helpline were by women, whereas 37% of the callers were by men--however several men were calling on behalf of other women. Facebook is the most widely used platform in Pakistan, which is reflected in the fact that 43% of the helpline callers experienced harassment there.


The Helpline has strict privacy and confidentiality policies in place, and only non-personally identifiable information is collected from our callers with informed consent. While 19% of the callers did not want to disclose their location, we were able to identify that most of our callers on the Helpline were from Punjab (54%). The Helpline also received calls from Sindh (16%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (4%), Balochistan (1%), Azad Kashmir and FATA (1%) and the Federal Capital, Islamabad (6%).

Building on this data, DRF has put forward recommendations for the government and law enforcement agencies to improve the reporting mechanism regarding online violence. The rules of PECA (The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016) drafted by Ministry of Information Technology need to be made public to expand the rights available to the citizens of Pakistan. There is also an urgent need to build the technical and financial capacity of the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C), FIA to deal with the unprecedented complaints more effective and efficiently. The report also makes recommendations to build capacity of FIA to deal with cases in foreign jurisdictions with officers getting specialized training in international laws engaged by the NR3C. Furthermore recommendations include establishing a rapid response cell that is operational 24/7 in addition to the operations of NR3C. DRF also mentioned that at least 33%  of Investigation Officers and Prosecutors should be women and the entire staff of the NR3C should be given training in gender sensitivity.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.


Contact person:
Nighat Dad

Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation
nighat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

October 03, 2018 - Comments Off on Press Release: DRF at RSF’s launch on groundbreaking global Information and Democracy Commission, 70 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Press Release: DRF at RSF’s launch on groundbreaking global Information and Democracy Commission, 70 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Digital Rights Foundation

11 September 2018

Paris: Seventy years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris, the Paris-based international NGO, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), announces the formation of a panel of 25 prominent figures with the aim of drafting an International Declaration on Information and Democracy.

Co-chaired by Nobel peace laureate, Shirin Ebadi, and RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, the “Information and Democracy Commission” includes Nobel economics laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, Peruvian novelist and Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, a recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.

A panel has been formed with 25 members from 18 countries, which includes Nighat Dad, the founder of Pakistan’s Digital Rights Foundation. Ms. Dad is honoured to be part of this prestigious Committee and will be focusing on digital rights and human rights in online spaces. She will be highlighting the spike in fake news and the pivotal role played by social media companies and governments when dealing with fake news. Ms. Dad notes that, “I hope to represent a South Asian perspective that is both part of a global, multi-stakeholder initiative and speak to the particularities of experience and identities of all. Through this platform I hope to focus on the digital rights discourse across the globe and right the to free speech and expression for all. ”

This initiative’s ultimate goal is an international commitment by governments, private-sector companies and civil society representatives. The panel is envisioned to facilitate a groundbreaking political process which is to be launched at the initiative of the leaders of several democratic countries on the basis of the Declaration, and that this will lead to an “International Pledge on Information and Democracy.”

Letters have already been sent to leaders in all continents of the world, and RSF hopes that they will commit as early as mid-November, when dozens of heads of state and government meet in Paris for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War (11 November), for the Paris Peace Forum (11-13 November) and the Internet Governance Forum (12-14 November).

The Commission is meeting for the first time on the 11th and 12th September 2018 in Paris and has set itself the goal of completing its work within two months. RSF, which is acting as its general secretariat, initiated a discussion several months ago that is intended to contribute to the Commission’s own debates. International consultations with a wide range of stakeholders have also been launched.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

 

Contact Person

Seerat Khan

Advocacy and Outreach Manager

seerat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

August 16, 2018 - Comments Off on Press Release For Hamara Internet App

Press Release For Hamara Internet App

App

Digital Rights Foundation will be releasing it’s one-of-a-kind app, “Hamara Internet”, on the occasion of our nation’s Independence Day, this  August 14th. The app will be available for downloading on the Google App store at 12 am.

The objece of the app is to provide access to information to all Pakistanis regarding the reporting mechanisms in place in case of cyber harassment. The app provides tips and tidbits for online safety to its users and also provides a directory for relevant personnel and contact information of LEAs and organisations such as the FIA, PTA, PCSW and any other relevant resources available for the public. The purpose that the Digital Rights Foundation envisions for the app is to create awareness regarding cyber harassment and through the app educate individuals regarding the law and the precautionary measures they can opt for in case they encounter cyber harassment.

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation notes that “this application is a step towards employing technology to address the issue of online harassment by making resources accessible through an easy-to-use app and to make it available in both Urdu and English.” She went on to add, “the tech sector in Pakistan has failed to tackle issues on the internet in an effective and inclusive manner--we hope this app will be the stepping stone for more initiatives.”

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

Contact Person:

Seerat Khan

seerat@digitalrightsfoundation.pk