DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – April 2022

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – April 2022

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. 3, No. 4 April 2022 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

Telenor customers face cellular service disruption across locations in Pakistan

Date: April 1, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Customers of cellular network provider Telenor Pakistan faced disruption in services due to degradation of voice and data services at some locations across the country as result of multiple cuts in an optic fiber cable in the South Region.

Government renews mobile operator license for $486 million

Date: April 14, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) renewed the license of a mobile network operator for $485 million for 15 years that committed the highest-ever investment in the telecommunication sector.

Number of 3G, 4G users in Pakistan reach 113 million

Date: April 19, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) revealed that the number of 3G and 4G network subscribers in Pakistan reached 113.11 million by end-March 2022.

Federal government decides to disband Digital Media Wing initiative

Date: April 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The federal government decided to close down the Digital Media Wing (DMW) established by the previous Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to disseminate official information to social media platforms operating in Pakistan.

Works on subsea fiber optic cable to slow internet connectivity across Pakistan

Date: April 20, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Arab News

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced that users across Pakistan may experience slower internet speeds for one day due to maintenance work on the international submarine fiber optic cable that provides internet services in the country.

Pakistani internet service provider moves court against alleged discrimination by government

Date: April 23, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Internet service provider Nayatel filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against alleged discriminatory treatment meted out to it by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in launching its internet services in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

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

Relief for digital rights activists as court promulgates PECA amendment

Date: April 10, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Civil society, the media and digital rights activists expressed relief after Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah passed the short order striking down the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), Amendment Ordinance, 2022.

Regulate, not censor: Internet censorship regime in Pakistan threatens small businesses

Date: April 18, 2022 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

Pakistan has banned the use of video-sharing platform TikTok four times, the last being July 2021. However, the application has enabled small businesses to reach an audience that they might not have been able to without appropriating a hefty marketing budget for the purpose.

Live-streaming transparency in Pakistan

Date: April 28, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The initiative by Islamabad High Court (IHC) to live-stream its judicial proceedings can serve as a bridge between the public and judiciary to increase trust, credibility and confidence. The public will, as a result, be in a better position to judge whether the court is biased or working under systemic limitations.

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

Court serves Federal Investigation Agency notice for cybercrime case against former SAPM

Date: April 2, 2022 – Source: Dawn

An additional district and sessions judge issued a notice to the cybercrime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on a petition seeking registration of a case against former special assistant Zulfi Bokhari, for sharing a doctored video featuring opposition leader Maryam Nawaz on social media.

Islamabad High Court seeks written arguments in PECA case

Date: April 4, 2022 – Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP)

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought written arguments from petitioners in the cases challenging amendments in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act (PECA) Ordinance 2022.

PTA urges YouTube to unblock late religious scholar’s channel

Date: April 7, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) formally approached and asked YouTube to unblock the channel of late Muslim scholar Dr Israr Ahmed, arguing that his videos were for the purpose of education and not ‘hate speech’.

Court seeks Federal Investigation Agency’s reply on pleas against PECA amendment

Date: April 8, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought a report from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the petition filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) against the ordinance amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.

Residence of former Prime Minister’s focal person on digital media raided in Karachi

Date: April 11, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) claimed that the residence of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on digital media Arsalan Khalid was raided in Karachi by unidentified persons hours after the party was ousted from power through a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister.

Federal Investigation Agency closes 7,000 cases filed under amended PECA ordinance

Date: April 11, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

After the promulgation by court of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act Ordinance 2022, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) closed nearly 7,000 inquiries and actions initiated across Pakistan under the now promulgated ordinance.

Narratives standing out through hashtags across Pakistan’s digital sphere

Date: April 12, 2022 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

In Pakistan, Twitter has had a field day since the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan was passed in the national assembly. One glance at trending hashtags can reveal much about an internet users’ anger, disappointment or relief regarding the political episode.

Army leadership takes note of online smear campaign

Date: April 13, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Arab News

Pakistan’s top military brass took notice of the online propaganda campaign by some quarters to malign the country’s armed forces and create a division between the institution and the country’s citizens.

Federal Investigation Agency arrests five social media users for critical tweets

Date: April 13, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune

In light of directions of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested at least five people for mocking federal security institutions on Twitter in different cities.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority introduces mechanism to block obscene online content

Date: April 13, 2022 – Source 1: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Source 2: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) introduced the Central Domain Name System (CDNS) for the prevention and blocking of obscene and immoral content from online platforms operating in the country.

The curious case of anti-state smear campaigns in Pakistan on Twitter

Date: April 14, 2022 – Source: Dawn

With the curtain falling on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) government, media handlers of the party are doing what they do best; they have taken over social media. Rallying for ‘independence’, media watchdogs have pointed towards the party’s activists as being behind ‘anti-state’ trends on Twitter.

Retired Pakistani servicemen denounce release of audio clips on social media attributed to them

Date: April 14, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

Retired generals and officials of the armed forces termed audio clips on social media attributed to them, in which statements have been given against the Pakistan Army and its current leadership, ‘fake’ and a ‘conspiracy against Pakistan’s armed forces’.

FIA’s cyber-crime wing director removed amid crackdown on social media

Date: April 14, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) Director Babar Bakht Qureshi was removed from his post amid an ongoing crackdown against the social media smear campaign launched against security institutions reportedly by supporters of a political party after a regime change.

Federal Investigation Agency ordered not to harass social media activists

Date: April 15, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from harassing political and social media activists of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and summoned the director of the FIA Cyber Crimes Wing (CCW) to appear before court to explain their actions.

Anti-army social media campaign in Pakistan

Date: April 15, 2022 – Source: The News

Informed sources from Pakistani authorities claim that they have ‘incontrovertible evidence’ that the social media vilification campaign against the armed forces was launched with the backing of the senior leadership of a particular political party.

Amnesty International urges immediate release of Twitter users arrested over critical tweets

Date: April 16, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Amnesty International (AI)

Amnesty International (AI) urged Pakistani authorities to immediately release eight people arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for ‘criticizing the state’ Twitter and to stop using draconian laws to punish people who are exercising their right to freedom of expression online.

School teachers in Punjab directed to stay away from using social media

Date: April 18, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Continuing with its earlier policy to disallow government employees from using social media, the Punjab government barred school teachers from using social networking platforms and directed them to stay away from the ongoing online ‘smear campaign’ against state institutions.

Victims of cybercrime, online harassment in Karachi await justice due to slow pace of trials

Date: April 18, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Hundreds of victims of cybercrimes, including identity theft, image-based sexual abuse and pornography in Pakistan await justice as the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) failed to file charges against the suspects in around 1,500 cases pending trials in the courts of Karachi.

Supreme Court to ignore criticism on social media in Pakistan

Date: April 19, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Today

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) remarked that the Supreme Court will not be influenced by criticism on social media platforms as long as there are people that abide by the Constitution.

924 Twitter handles being used to instigate hate speech in Pakistan

Date: April 19, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Business Standard, Source 3: The Print

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb claimed that 924 Twitter handles were being used to initiate trends instigating hate speech and online violence against certain political parties and state institutions in Pakistan.

Lawyer associations condemn online smear campaign against judiciary in Pakistan

Date: April 19, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBA) and different bar councils condemned and rejected an online smear campaign launched against the judges of superior judiciary.

Two teachers suspended in Lahore for ‘misuse’ of social media

Date: April 21, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Punjab School Education Department (SED) suspended two school teachers for using social media networking platforms for political posts in violation of an order barring them from such practices.

Women University bans use of mobile phones and tablets for students

Date: April 21, 2022 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

The Women University Swabi (WUS) released a notification that banned students from using cellular devices and tablets on university’s premises. The ban has been associated with the ‘excessive use’ of social media platforms by students while on campus.

Online trends against Pakistani state institutions see ‘organic decline’

Date: April 23, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) action against those involved in a vilification campaign against state institutions on social networking platforms seem to have slowed down following a decline in the ‘organized drive’ in this respect.

FIA busts gang involved in creating mobile accounts with fake fingerprints in Pakistan

Date: April 25, 2022 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) busted a criminal network involved in the manufacturing and supplying of silicone thumbs to be used for illegal SIM activations to create fake mobile wallet accounts in Pakistan.

TikTok removes over 6.5 million Pakistani videos for violating community guidelines

Date: April 25, 2022 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

Video-sharing platform TikTok revealed it had removed over 6.5 million videos originating from Pakistan-based content creators for violating its community guidelines in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Data theft: Pakistani bank suspends international transaction services

Date: April 26, 2022 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Asia News International (ANI)

Overseas hackers managed to rob hundreds of accounts managed by a private Pakistani bank through internet banking, as they compromised data of a number of debit cards to conduct fraudulent financial transactions in foreign currencies.

Government bans advertisements of illegal housing societies in Pakistan

Date: April 29, 2022 – Source: The News

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) advised residential and commercial societies operating without proper No Objection Certificate (NOC) to refrain from advertising illegitimate business operations on social media platforms.

Online campaigning: Is a PTI’s social media pressuring judges in Pakistan?

Date: April 30, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has been successful in influencing Pakistan’s superior judiciary through social media campaigns since the Panamagate in 2016 but it remains to be seen whether or not its strategy works this time to influence superior judges into passing preferable judgments.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

The Pakistani digital startup landscape

Date: April 4, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

The Pakistani digital startup community enjoyed a boom during 2021 raising $350 million, spread across 83 deals. This shows an increase of 355% and 63% in the number of deals relative to the previous year. This sector has been widely acknowledged over the last decade as a major driver of economic growth.

Cloud technology to steer Pakistan’s Vision 2025

Date: April 8, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Experts observed that cloud technology has become fundamentally important for the digital transformation of Pakistan’s businesses and public sector enterprises.  It can play an important role in the digital strengthening of the country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Pakistani mobile firms looks towards artificial intelligence for innovation

Date: April 17, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistani mobile phone companies are implementing artificial intelligence in different features of their products to gain an edge over their competitors and amass a major share in the overall smartphone market of the country.

Former prime minister hosts record-breaking Twitter Spaces session

Date: April 21, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Gulf News, Source 3: Daily Pakistan (DP)

Former prime minister Imran Khan held a massive live session using the Spaces feature on Twitter, which his termed ‘record-breaking’ moment as the number of live listeners reached 165,000 at one point during the address.

Pakistan’s information technology economy

Date: April 21, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The time is ripe for Pakistan to prove its mettle internationally by leading what could be described as the fourth industrial revolution in the field of information technology (IT). Robust restructuring of IT and other related sectors and their inclusivity will pave the way for modern governance.

Islamabad High Court set to live stream its proceedings

Date: April 23, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

In a first, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) decided to live-stream its judicial proceedings and gave directives to court administration to install necessary equipment to facilitate this initiative.

Pakistan’s information technology exports up 29% to $1.94 billion

Date: April 24, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Remittances from Pakistan information technology exports, including telecommunication, computer and information services, during July to March FY2022 surged by 29.26 per cent to $1.94 billion from $1.50 billion during the same period of the previous fiscal year.

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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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