DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – October 2020

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR

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. 10 October 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

Government seeks $200 million loan to strengthen digital connectivity in Pakistan

Date: October 19, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The government has submitted a project to the World Bank, seeking $200 million to strengthen digital connectivity as a key foundation for the development of digital economy, and to enhance the government’s capacity for digitally enabled public service delivery.

Universal Service Fund awards Rs5.1 billion broadband contracts

Date: October 20, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Universal Service Fund (USF) awarded contracts worth Rs5.11 billion to Telenor, Zong, Ufone and PTCL under the Next Generation Broadband for Sustainable Development and Next Generation Optical Fibre Network and Services programs for enhanced digital connectivity in Pakistan.

Pakistan ranks ahead of India in mobile internet connectivity and speeds

Date: October 27, 2020 – Source: The News

Pakistan has been ranked 116th on Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index for mobile internet speeds with 17.13 mbps while India has been ranked 131st.

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

Media Matters for Democracy publishes White Paper on reforms for PECA 2016

Date: October 2, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD)

Media Matters for Democracy has published a White Paper on Reforms for the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016. PECA 2016 is a contentious legislation that provides the primary mechanism for online content regulation and the investigation and prosecution of cyber offences in Pakistan.

Civil rights groups express concerns over lack of transparency in draft of new social media rules

Date: October 15, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD)

Civil rights groups expressed concern over the lack of transparency regarding new draft of social media rules. They demanded immediate release of the new draft and the initiation of a credible consultative process.

Battle brews between government and Big Tech companies with new rules

Date: October 15, 2020 – Source: Dawn

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) raised its concerns regarding the renewed push by government authorities to put in place rules for blocking of online content. The coalition defended the rights of citizens to uninterrupted online content.

Users can now file content removal appeal to Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’

Date: October 22, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Facebook’s Oversight Board has announced that users can now submit appeals on content removal to the global body for an independent review.

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

Supreme Court dismisses Rehman Malik’s petition in US blogger Cynthia case

Date: October 1, 2020 – Source: The News

The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the petition of Rehman Malik, setting aside the order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) allowing the writ petition of US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie.

Islamabad High Court remarks that fake news, social media puts pressure on judges

Date: October 2, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that fake news and social media campaigns puts pressure on judges while deciding cases.

Islamabad High Court bars authorities from arresting journalists over his tweets

Date: October 9, 2020 – Source: South Asia Monitor

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) barred Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting a journalist over his alleged ‘objectionable’ tweets.

Pakistan blocks TikTok over failing to filter out ‘immoral content’

Date: October 10, 2020 – Source 1: Reuters, Source 2: Voice of America, Source 3: Express Tribune

Pakistan’s telecom regulator blocked TikTok for failing to filter out “immoral and indecent” content, another blow to the social media application that has come under increasing scrutiny as its popularity has surged across the globe.

Digital Rights Foundation releases report on impact and legality of surveillance in Pakistan

Date: October 14, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)

Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) released a report highlighting the social and political impacts of surveillance on private citizens and private organizations in Pakistan.

Islamabad High Court issues notices to PTA, Federal Government over TikTok ban

Date: October 16, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued notices to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), federal government and Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) over the ban on social media application TikTok.

‘Disappointed’ TikTok officials urge lifting of ban in Pakistan

Date: October 18, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Chinese social media giant TikTok issued a cryptic statement which called for lifting of the ban on the application in return for a vague assurance centered on the “allocation of resources” to the Pakistani market.

Islamabad High Court hints at unbanning TikTok

Date: October 18, 2020 – Source: The News

The Islamabad High Court, in its order on a plea against a temporary ban on TikTok, hinted at suspension of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s temporary ban on the popular Chinese application.

Forbidden fun: TikTok remains banned over ‘obscenity’ allegations

Date: October 18, 2020 – Source: The News

Popular video-sharing platform TikTok is the latest target of authorities’ relentless quest to control social media tools and wipe out dissenting content in the name of religion and national security.

Pro-India Twitter accounts disseminating disinformation ahead of Pakistan FATF review

Date: October 21, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF)

Digital Rights Foundation released a research report on the organized dissemination of disinformation against Pakistan by Twitter accounts based in India ahead of the country’s Financial Action Task Force’s review meeting.

Online fraud complaints on the rise in Pakistan

Date: October 22, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

With cases of online fraud on the rise with the increase in the use of information technology, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cybercrime Wing is receiving 15 to 20 complaints from people robbed of millions of rupees every day.

PTA asks Twitter to punish those behind anti-Pakistan propaganda

Date: October 22, 2020 – Source: Dawn 

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) asked Twitter to take action against the accounts spreading blatant lies about Pakistan.

China appreciates lifting of TikTok ban by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority

Date: October 22, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

China has welcomed the decision to lift ban on TikTok by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, a popular Chinese video-sharing social networking service, after receiving assurance that the company would block all accounts repeatedly involved in spreading obscenity and immortality.

Twitter urged to block Indian propaganda against Pakistan

Date: October 23, 2020 – Source 1: The Nation, Source 2: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) asked the microblogging website, Twitter, to block handles involved in spreading false and baseless information targeting Pakistan with hashtags ‘CivilWarinKarachi’ and ‘CivilWarinPakistan’ etc.

Rethinking digital bans

Date: October 23, 2020 – Source: Dawn

By banning a digital application for the poor and weak, the rich and powerful have the last laugh. With every passing day those less fortunate are finding it hard to voice their opinion, while the powerful, with more means at their disposal, can loudly voice theirs at a time and place of their choosing.

Indian users spread fake news on Twitter about civil war in Pakistan

Date: October 25, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Digital rights activists and citizens have decried the disinformation campaign launched by Twitter users in India claiming a civil war had broken out in the port city of Karachi.

Freedom Network condemns shutting of internet to limit ability of journalists to report

Date: October 25, 2020 – Source: Freedom Network

Freedom Network (FN) condemned the decision by Balochistan government to shut down internet services in Quetta to limit the ability of journalists to report activities of the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s political rally in the city.

Prime Minister urges Facebook to ban Islamophobic content

Date: October 26, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Prime Minister Imran Khan came down hard on French President Emmanuel Macron for his Islamophobic comments and urged the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam content that had been put in place for the holocaust.

Rawalpindi police officers banned from using TikTok

Date: October 27, 2020 – Source: South Asia Monitor

The police department of Rawalpindi has warned that if a video of any officer goes viral on social media, irrespective of whether it is TikTok, Facebook or YouTube, strict departmental action will be taken.

Pakistan restores TikTok with conditions

Date: October 20, 2020 – Source: The News

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has restored TikTok services with certain conditions. TikTok said that they have locked over four million videos and suspended 25 thousand accounts.

Digital political rallies catch up as censorship pushes viewers online

Date: October 21, 2020 – Source: The News

Online viewership of political rallies by opposition parties in Pakistan rose significantly as traditional media outlets were forced to censor parts of speeches by leaders of political parties.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

What hinders Pakistan’s information technology sector growth?

Date: October 5, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan’s information technology sector has the potential to increase its exports by $10 billion by 2024 which can help the country to earn foreign exchange and create jobs. However, various policy and regulatory barriers are hindering the growth of this sector.

Balochistan Inspector General for digitizing police force system in the province

Date: October 7, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Balochistan Inspector General (IG) of Police Mohsin Hassan Butt decided to digitize the outdated and traditional system of the police force in order to bring it in line with modern policing methods.

Women Protection Cell application to be launched soon

Date: October 7, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Sindh Police plans to launch a mobile application for the provincial Women Protection Cell (WPC), with the aim to curb crimes against women and children.

Over 100 million books available for free from Sindh’s new digital library

Date: October 8, 2020 – Source: The News

The Sindh government launched a digital library to give free access to people from around the world to virtual editions of over 100 million books, research journals, and periodicals having special focus on the centuries-old history and civilization of Sindh.

Western Digital products launched in Pakistan

Date: October 8, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Amid digital growth in the country, the Western Digital has decided to enter Pakistani market with the launch of its products in the country, but the company faces challenges from piracy and copy rights violations from imports to retail end.

Digitalization of forex regulatory approvals launched

Date: October 17, 2020 – Source: Dawn

State Bank of Pakistan Governor Dr. Reza Baqir launched a Regulatory Approval System (RAS) for end-to-end digitalization of foreign exchange-related case submission process.

China to invest in Pakistan’s first Digital City

Date: October 21, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

According to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board, Chinese technology companies are interested in investing in Pakistan’s first-ever Digital City.

Education application for specially-abled children launched

Date: October 23, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Minister of Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari launched a mobile application for the parents of specially-abled children to help them access training and rehabilitation services available for such children in Special Education Centers and Institutions.

Multi-phase land record digitization project launched in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Date: October 23, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa launched a multi-phase land record digitization project. The project will provide efficient and easy-to-access information regarding land records to citizens of the province.

Work on special technology and digital zones under way in Pakistan

Date: October 23, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Ministry for Information Technology and Telecommunication informed a webinar that work on special technology and digital zones were under way to facilitate the e-commerce industry in Pakistan.

Roshan Digital Account: a landmark investment initiative for Non-Resident Pakistanis

Date: October 25, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Non-resident Pakistanis (NRPs) appear to be making their way — albeit cautiously — in the stock market under Roshan Digital Accounts (RDA) announced by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). The initiative provides an interactive platform for overseas Pakistanis to invest in the country.

Digital tsunami is coming

Date: October 26, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

It is obvious that e-commerce was thriving even before the pandemic and lockdowns merely worked as a catalyst for it to outperform and resultantly shake up the weaker and vulnerable players in the market.

Legislation sought for forensics databank

Date: October 27, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Punjab Forensic Science Agency has started work on legislation to create a databank of the DNA, fingerprints and weapons of criminals in the province.

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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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