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October 3, 2013 - Comments Off on Freedom on the Net 2013 Findings: Pakistan’s Internet Freedom Status NOT FREE

Freedom on the Net 2013 Findings: Pakistan’s Internet Freedom Status NOT FREE

Freedom on the Net 2013 - Growing Concerns Over Pakistan's Internet Freedom Status

Lahore, October 3, 2013: With the launch of a new study by Freedom House to assess Freedom on the Net in 60 countries around the world, a growing surge of employing surveillance technologies and restricting  free access by the governments globally can be observed. Freedom on the Net 2013 report on Pakistan confirms the doubts that even with the change of government - after a successful democratic process - rhetoric of tightening Internet surveillance remains the same. YouTube, for example, still remains blocked in the country.

Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan along with research analysts of Freedom House worked concertedly over past many months to research, compile and assess the limits on content, violations of user rights in Pakistan, and overall Internet freedom in the country. We learnt that government has been keen in bringing in some newer technologies to restrict online content and also have better surveillance powers. Presence of FinFisher's Spy tools in Pakistan on state-owned Pakistan Telecommunication Ltd (PTCL) network was strongly condemned by civil society of the country. Government's plan to systematize website blocking was also one of the most concerning developments of 2012 and 2013.

It was also found that violations of user rights have been on an uptick in the past year in Pakistan with the cases like the shooting at the 15yr old blogger and activist Malala Yousufzai. An increased number of blasphemy cases were also registered, sometimes just to settle business rivalries.

"Pakistan remains one of the worst countries when it comes to online freedom of speech, user rights and citizens' privacy", commented Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director, Nighat Dad.  "In the past year, state has been rigorously trying to implement the best of surveillance set-ups to create a kind of watchdog upon activists, journalists and a common citizen on the name of war against terrorism. Pakistan' civil society, despite being faced with threats and vicious consequences, is strongly fighting against the state-employed policies and technologies that can hurt Pakistani citizen".

The upper house of parliament, in February 2013, granted security agencies permission to monitor private e-mails and mobile phone communications in order to collect evidence of terrorist activity, threatening Pakistani citizen's privacy. In the areas like Baluchistan, activists are even more at threat with plethora of intelligence agencies and Pakistani army trying to cut their voices. Freedom on the Net 2013 report found that intelligence agencies have been pressuring federal government for greater surveillance control and location tracking system. While this all has been moved forward to fight against terrorists, it is evident that these technologies are used to threat media personnel, attack activists and other such factitious activities affecting a common citizen.

To view full country report of Pakistan, please visit Freedom on the Net, 2013.

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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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