DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – August 2020

 

A monthly report on trends relating to digital rights, policies, practices & media

Tracking: Internet and digital policies and regulations

Digitalization in governance and socio-economic domains

Digital rights violations and protections

Digital rights advocacy and defense

Digital media and online free speech

Vol. 1, No. 8 August 2020 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network – www.fnpk.org

SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations

  • Federal and provincial governments (ministries and departments)
  • Internet regulators
  • Media regulators
  • Telecom regulators
  • Internet access / connectivity

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s social media guru to head government digital wing

Date: August 5, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Khyber News

Following months of candidate assessments and interviews, the government has appointed Imran Ghazali as the general manager Digital Media Wing (DMW) under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to lead its digital media policy.

Minister for Information Technology, Huawei delegation discuss connectivity and digitalization

Date: August 5, 2020 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

Delegation of Huawei Technologies Pakistan led by Chief Executive Officer Mark Meng called on Federal Minister Information Technology and Telecommuncation Syed Amin ul Haq to discuss matters relating to expansion of information technology and improved digital connectivity in the country.

Online classes amid glaring digital divide in Pakistan

Date: Agust 6, 2020 – Source: Sujag

Students in Pakistan are facing difficulties in ensuring a workable digital solution to attend the mandatory online classes prescribed by their universities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Far-flung areas in the country remain dismally disconnected to fast internet services.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf forms social media teams at grassroots level

Date: August 10, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government in Punjab has formed teams at district and sub-district levels for image building of the government over its achievements and promotion of party policies on social media platforms.

Pemra issues first teleport license

Date: August 16, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The launch of Pakistan’s first teleport company by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority is likely to provide cost-effective relay solutions to electronic media and upgraded telecast quality to viewers.

Lahore High Courts asks digital activist to cite law on online exams

Date: August 19, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Lahore High Court asked a petitioner’s counsel to cite a law on the next hearing that permitted the court to pass an order for online examinations. The petitioner had filed a petition advocating for expansion of digital outreach and online exam facilities for Pakistani students.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority fines WorldCall Rs10 million for flouting laws

Date: August 22, 2020 – Source: The News

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has fined WorldCall Telecom Limited Rs10 million for not reporting a substantial change of ownership to the regulator, which it said was a major breach of the governing laws.

Legislation planned to regulate telemedicine, virtual health systems

Date: August 24, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Amid growing telemedicine and virtual health systems, mainly after the coronavirus pandemic, the Sindh government is going to focus on the technology-driven venture and planning legislation to address the regulation of this sector both to capitalize on its potential and to regulate the new sector.

Minister urges development of information technology in Pakistan

Date: August 26, 2020 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

While chairing a meeting of Prime Minister’s Task Force on Information Technology, Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin ul Haq has urged its members to ensure steps to increase Pakistan’s information technology exports.

SECTION 2: Digital rights advocacy and defense

  • Pakistan-based citizens and civil society organizations
  • Independent international digital rights organizations
  • UN and global multilateral organizations
  • Governmental and other sources

Pakistan’s digital infrastructure must get better

Date: August 10, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

With the rise in data traffic and the demand for faster internet, the backhaul microwave radios have started falling short. It is time for Pakistan’s aging digital infrastructure to improve to cater to its growing demand for data.

Entrusting data to control freaks

Date: August 24, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Companies that are most vocal about decentralizing decision-making and making every worker the brand ambassador, there is a very clear pattern of even the directorial level employees hesitating to comment anything other than the usual carefully constructed statements.

SECTION 3: Digital rights violations and protections

  • Citizens and netizens – including case studies
  • Media, journalists and other information practitioners
  • Online free speech
  • Online access to information
  • Privacy violations
  • Data protection
  • Surveillance
  • Misinformation / disinformation / fake news
  • Cybercrime

Data of bus-sharing service users hit by security breach

Date: August 1, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today

Popular bus-sharing service Swvl suffered a major security breach that compromised user data, including names, email addresses and phone numbers, of over four million customers.

Abductions, Censorship and Layoffs: Pakistani Critics Are Under Siege

Date: August 3, 2020 – Source: The New York Times

Recent abductions of a journalist and murder of a citizen activist has underscored Pakistan’s worsening rights conditions as the country’s security forces pressure the news media, social media and human rights groups.

Egypt seeks enhanced cyber security cooperation with Pakistan

Date: August 4, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: World News Monitor

Egyptian authorities expressed interest in strengthening cooperation between Pakistan and Egypt in areas of cyber security, science, technology and innovation, and education through the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (Comsats).

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority warns public of cyber-attacks and scams

Date: August 4, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has warned the public of increased cyber scams and attacks during the spread of Covid-19 in Pakistan. The notification comes as people move to digital platforms during social distancing protocols in place across the country.

Federal Ombudsman seeks report on cyber-crimes against children

Date: August 5, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Nation

Federal Ombudsman Syed Tahir Shahbaz has asked National Child Commissioner (NCC) Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi to prepare a report on cyber-crimes against children along with a plan of action by taking all stakeholders on board.

Hate on social media worries Punjab Law Minister

Date: August 5, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat said that all possible measures will be taken to maintain religious harmony and prevent anarchy during the month of Muharram, warning ‘miscreants’ against spreading hate on social media.

Cynthia D. Ritchie’s plea against Rehman Malik dismissed by local court

Date: August 6, 2020 – Source 1: South Asia Monitor, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: Express Tribune

A sessions court in Islamabad rejected US blogger Cynthia Dawn Ritchie’s request to register a case against former interior minister Rehman Malik on the accusation of rape.

The alternative to conventional media is digital

Date: August 9, 2020 – Source: The News

The conventional media have been coerced into silence on the very news themes that constitute professional journalism. This has forced audiences to migrate to online spaces where public interest information and debates have found accommodation and new forms.

The digital war between states

Date: August 10, 2020 – Source: Dawn

As global tech wars gain momentum, countries that aren’t backing major tech platforms of their own are passing laws to ensure they can access and control the valuable user information that tech companies gather.

University rector registers cybercrime case against 20 people

Date: August 10, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Technology Times

National University of Science and Technology Rector retired Lt Gen Naweed Zaman has registered a defamation case in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against 20 people under the Cybercrime Act for their alleged involvement in “mudslinging”.

Internet rules in Pakistan: regulation or strangulation?

Date: August 11, 2020 – Source: Sujag

Restrictions on VPNs will further add to the existing curbs on freedom of expression and access to information and enable the proverbial ‘big brother’ to watch every piece of information coming in and going out of the country via internet.

Critical women journalists decry ‘government-supported’ online abuse

Date: August 12, 2020 – Source: The Print

Several Pakistani women journalists and commentators issued a statement condemning alleged trolling and online abuse by government officials and other Twitter users affiliated to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Probe into cyberattack by Indian spy networks

Date: August 13, 2020 – Source 1: South Asia Monitor, Source 2: Dawn

Pakistan’s military announced a probe after intelligence agencies uncovered a major cyberattack by hostile Indian spy networks targeting military and government officials.

Women journalists in Pakistan seek protection against attacks on social media

Date: August 13, 2020 – Source 1: South Asia Monitor, Source 2: Dawn

A group of well-known Pakistani women journalists has sought protection against what they termed “vicious attacks” directed at them through social media, allegedly by people linked to the ruling government.

Digital rights activists express solidarity with female journalists against online abuse

Date: August 13, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy

Media Matters for Democracy, along with other digital rights organizations, expressed solidarity with the women journalists who have called out online violence they face on a regular basis on social media platforms and have demanded the government to put an end to such practices.

Lahore police to curb hate speech

Date: August 13, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Lahore police in partnership Federal Investigation Agency’s Cybercrime Wing and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to devise a strategy against sharing of hate content on social media.

  National Assembly takes up proposal to set up national cybercrime center

Date: August 18, 2020 – Source: The News

A National Assembly panel has taken up a proposal to establish a national center on cybercrime which has been prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Islamabad High Court issues notice to Rehman Malik on US blogger’s plea

Date: August 22, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Islamabad High Court issued a notice to Senator Rehman Malik on an appeal filed by US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie against dismissal of her plea seeking registration of a criminal case against Senator Rehman Malik over rape allegations.

Trolling or correcting fake news?

Date: August 23, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

A public statement by several female journalists alleging online abuse and harassment has highlighted their ordeal. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, while condemning online abuse, stood by the rights of its followers to criticize fake news.

Female Pakistani YouTuber threatened to hand over channel

Date: August 25, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The Current

Field laborer-turned-YouTuber Mukhtiar Bibi has claimed that she has been receiving threats by influential people of her area to hand over either her channel’s control or its earnings.

Minister slams PPP for targeting PTI’s social media team

Date: August 26, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry praised the social media team of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and condemned the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for targeting their team members.

Fact Focus Urdu claims their website under organized cyber attack

Date: August 28, 2020 – Source: Fact Focus Urdu

Fact Focus Urdu claimed that their website came under an organized cyber-attack after they released their investigative report on Lt General (Retired) Asim Saleem Bajwa and his family’s undeclared commercial interests in Pakistan and abroad.

Pakistan asks YouTube to block objectionable content

Date: August 29, 2020 – Source: The News

Pakistani regulators have asked YouTube to immediately block all videos they consider “objectionable” from being accessed in the country; a demand criticized by rights campaigners.

Reimagining the internet

Date: August 30, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Recent attempts to ban applications and the tradition of censoring content on the internet are rooted in a misunderstanding of the internet in policymaking. There is a dire need to reimagine the internet in order for rights to be protected, the digital economy to grow, and investor confidence to improve.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

  • Digitalization in governance sectors / e-governance
  • Digitalization in social and development sectors
  • Digitalization in business and commercial sectors

Web portal launched to assist builders

Date: August 1, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The federal government has launched a web portal to assist builders who have pledged to commence economic activities in the construction sector.

Online platform offers butcher services

Date: August 1, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Chinese digital company Dazaran provided online sale and purchase of cattle and slaughter house facility to customers in Pakistan.

E-payments help excise make record tax collection

Date: August 1, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Excise and Taxation department in the federal capital collected over Rs1.5 billion in taxes during July and deposited it in the national exchequer.

President stresses application of technological innovation in governance

Date: August 5, 2020 – Source 1: Radio Pakistan, Source 2: The News

President Dr Arif Alvi said a combination of governance and innovative technology could lead Pakistan towards rapid development in key sectors including health, agriculture and industry.

Is it time for YouTube to open a Pakistan office?

Date: August 6, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

As the number of individuals and groups grows for whom YouTube has become the single source of livelihood, the majority of digital content creators have urged YouTube to open a permanent office in Pakistan for efficient solution to issues such as hacking, content collaboration and technical glitches.

Telenor offers subsidized internet bundle for Pakistani students

Date: August 8, 2020 – Source: The News

Enabling the youth by connecting them to what matters most, Telenor Pakistan has joined hands with Ministry of Information and Technology and Virtual University (VU) to introduce subsidized internet packages for students of DigiSkills Program.

Pakistani startup takes on early breast cancer detection

Date: August 9, 2020 – Source: Dawn

An Islamabad-based digital startup, Xylexa, has developed an artificial-intelligence powered, cloud-based algorithm to help in early detection of cancer from mammograms.

World Bank, ITC report recommends digital solutions to guide Pakistani exporters

Date: August 11, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The World Bank Group and International Trade Centre (ITC) have recommended digital solutions to assist Pakistani exporters with domestic and foreign regulatory barriers.

Amazon Web Services to set up offices in Pakistan

Date: August 11, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is officially setting up their office for cloud computing services in Pakistan. AWS provides on-demand cloud computing services to entities.

State Bank of Pakistan unveils mechanism to pay for global digital services

Date: August 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The State Bank of Pakistan has introduced a new mechanism for making payments to globally recognized digital service providers to help businesses, including those in information technology and financial sectors.

Technology sector grows among pandemic

Date: August 15, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Despite the impact of Covid-19 on the economy of Pakistan and subsequent layoffs by several companies, a number of technology firms have reported expansion in their employee base in the past five months owing to a rise in their volumetric sales.

Life in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s social media bubble

Date: August 15, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was always ahead of the curve, utilizing digital media for building its brand. But as the country lurches from crisis to crisis and turf wars break out within the PTI, many feel the party’s insistence on promoting a ‘positive image’ seems divorced from ground realities.

Overseas Pakistanis to get digital banking facility

Date: August 17, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Today

Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistan and Human Resources Zulfi Bukhari said that overseas Pakistanis will now be able to make direct banking payments and investments in the country.

How to make Digital Pakistan work

Date: August 17, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Developing ‘Pakistan Stacks’ will allow each citizen to have their own electronic locker where their Computerized National Identity Cards, birth certificate, academic records will be available.

Capital Development Authority to introduce e-filing system in law, finance wings

Date: August 17, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Capital Development Authority

The Capital Development Authority has decided to introduce an e-filing system in its finance and law wings, but the land directorate, which has been involved in a number of cases of fraud, has yet to move from a manual to computerized system.

Tele-counselling aims to curb suicides in Thar

Date: August 16, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Sindh Courier

The Sindh government and non-governmental organizations have joined hands to curb the rising trend of suicide in Tharparkar district by setting up a tele-counselling service in the district.

Local governments in Punjab go online

Date: August 18, 2020 – Source: The News

The Punjab government has had a soft launch of a mobile application that integrates all 455 local governments online and facilitates people to get registered birth, death, marriage and divorce cases.

Telemedicine project launched in four districts

Date: August 19, 2020 – Source: The News

The Balochistan government has launched a telemedicine initiative in the province and has started a pilot project for ensuring quality healthcare facilities to people.

Samsung plans smartphone assembly plant in Pakistan

Date: August 22, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Dawn

Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar has said the South Korean technology Samsung is looking forward to setting up a smartphone assembly plant in Pakistan.

Election Commission of Pakistan to inaugurate online complaint system

Date: August 25, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Election Commission of Pakistan informed the Senate Standing Committee of Parliamentary Affairs that its new digital complaint system was being tested and would be launched soon.

First digital entertainment platform to be launched in Pakistan soon

Date: August 26, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Malaya United Films and Entertainment (Private) Limited has announced that it will soon launch an online digital entertainment platform in Pakistan.

Federal Bureau of Revenue collected Rs5.8 billion from expatriate mobile phones

Date: August 30, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Federal Board of Revenue has raised more than Rs5.8 billion in the last one year from expatriates and travelers on import of mobile phones under baggage.

A technology startup sorting out your email marketing

Date: August 30, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Mailmunch is a startup based out of Lahore and San Francisco that offers lead generation and digital marketing tools to businesses.

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OBJECTIVES: This series of monthly report aims to:

  • Track developments revolving around the framework of digitalization in Pakistan including policy and advocacy on digital rights, policy enforcements and digital rights violations, covering viewpoints of government, civil society, human rights community including digital rights campaigners, media, citizen journalists and other information practitioners, and regulators of electronic media, internet and telecom sectors, and netizens.
  • Monitor the interface between digital rights and Pakistan’s overall legal framework and how developments around them impact freedom of expression and access to information online as well as diversity and pluralism in Pakistan’s digital landscape, cyberspace and internet domains.
  • Follow developments around the themes of digital rights, freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, surveillance, data protection, access to internet services, telecom policies, etc.

INFORMATION SOURCES: This report monitors, among others, the following sources of information:

  • Government: Federal and provincial cabinets
  • Ministries: Related ministries, including Information and Broadcasting, Information Technology (IT) and Telecom, Human Rights, Science and Technology, Commerce and Industry, etc.
  • Legislatures: Senate, National Assembly, provincial assemblies, relevant standing committees
  • Regulators: Pakistan telecommunications Authority (PTA), Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Press Council of Pakistan (PPC), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), etc.
  • Global organizations: UN/Unesco, International Media Support (IMS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), etc.
  • National organizations: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), BoloBhi, Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), etc.
  • Media: Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, The Nation, Pakistan Today, The Friday Times, etc.
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Local networks: Journalists Safety Hubs Network, Alliance on Diversity & Pluralism in Media, etc.
  • Research groups: Gallup Pakistan, IPSOS Pakistan, etc.

 

 

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