December 4, 2014 - Comments Off on Freedom on the Net 2014 – Pakistan’s Scores Going from Bad to Worse

Freedom on the Net 2014 – Pakistan’s Scores Going from Bad to Worse

Freedom on the Net 2014 – Pakistan’s Falling Scores on Internet Freedom Ranking

Lahore, December 4, 2014: The latest Freedom on the Net report of Freedom House that is conducted in 60 countries around the world shows declining scores for Pakistan. Inclusion of online spaces as evidence in the draconian laws of Blasphemy while having no strong legal-cyber framework and implementation of technologies to censor political and social content remain the worrying highlights of this year's Net Freedom report.

FoTN 2014 report was meticulously researched by Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan along with the research analysts of Freedom House. This report is an attempt to compile and assess the limits on content, violations of user rights in Pakistan, and overall Net Freedom in the country. Here are some of the highlights of Freedom on the Net 2014 report on Pakistan:

  • Four women were brutally killed for using mobile technology in rural areas of Pakistan
  • Citizen Lab researchers found Netsweeper technology automatically blocking political and social content on Pakistan’s largest ISP
  • In April 2014, a judge in Punjab sentenced a Christian couple to death for blasphemy in relation to a text message they deny sending
  • Lawyer Rashid Rehman was shot dead on May 7 after receiving threats for representing a professor jailed on charge of committing blasphemy on Facebook
  • Pakistan started offering faster mobile internet connectivity (limited to urban centers) in the form of 3G and 4G
  • YouTube has been blocked since September 2012 while officials jockey to systematize control over the platform
  • Authorities' newly blocked film details referencing Baloch independence and a gay community website
  • Pakistan Protection Ordinance 2013 (now an Act) categorized unspecified “internet offenses” as terrorism, with suspects subject to arbitrary detention

“Pervasive  and Increased government control on the Internet whether in form of censorship or with new surveillance tactics, is limiting freedom of expression and amplifying self censorship among the internet users in Pakistan. The dangerous trend of introducing draconian and repressive laws to limit the civil liberties in the online space is only an effort to block political dissent and diverse opinions," commented Nighat Dad, Director, Digital Rights Foundation. "Pakistani government should understand that increased Internet censorship and data surveillance can only turn this democratic state into a repressive regime.”

Sanja Kelly, Project Director for Freedom on the Net talking about how legal framework is being constructed at the expense of citizen privacy mentioned, “authoritarian and democratic leaders alike believe the internet is ripe for regulation and passed laws that strengthen official powers to police online content. The scramble to legislate comes at the expense of user rights, as lawmakers deliberately or misguidedly neglect privacy protections and judicial oversight.The situation is especially problematic in less democratic states where citizens have no avenues to challenge or appeal government’s actions”

Pakistan scored 69 points (on a list of 0 to 100, where 100 is worst), two points down from last year's ranking. It is concerning for the civil society and Internet users in the country to see an elected government not respecting citizen's privacy or access to the Internet. Pakistan is in dire need of strong, citizen-centric cyber laws that could protect users from online crimes and false witnesses.

To view full country report of Pakistan, please visit Freedom on the Net, 2014.

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Digital Rights Foundation is a research based advocacy organisation based in Pakistan focusing on ICTs to support human rights, democratic processes and better digital governance. DRF opposes any and all sorts of online censorship and violations of human rights both on ground and online.  We firmly believe that freedom of speech and open access to online content is critically important for the development of socio-economy of the country.

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Published by: Shaikh Rafia in Internet Governance, Press Kits, Press Releases, Privacy

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