DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – December 2022

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – December 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. 12 December 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

Internet disrupted across Pakistan after undersea cable cut

Date: December 1, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

Internet services were disrupted across Pakistan after one of the two undersea cable links operated by a private telecommunication company was damaged in a coastal town of Egypt.

Non-opening of LCs in Pakistan major hurdle in completing internet projects

Date: December 27, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication was informed that 1.5 million new internet connections were being provided every month, but the non-opening of Lines of Credit (LCs) were creating problems.

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

Government committed to end urban-rural digital divide in Pakistan

Date: December 12, 2022 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

Federal Ministry for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that the federal government remained committed towards ending the digital divide between urban and rural areas of Pakistan.

It’s time we put ethics back in technology

Date: December 22, 2022 – Source: Digital Pakistan (DP)

There is no denying the tremendous growth the technology sector has undergone in Pakistan. However, ethical and moral dilemmas such as misuse of personal data, deep fakes, targeted misinformation, artificial intelligence (AI) bias and autonomous tech have pushed the need to address these concerns.

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

Government postpones plan to scrap mobile carrier payments

Date: December 2, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Amid concerns by telecommunication companies and consumers, Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that the finance ministry agreed to delay the suspension of the Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) system.

Old payment system for Google services not yet restored in Pakistan

Date: December 3, 2022 – Source: The News

Google did not restore the downloading of purchased applications through cellular mobile operators in Pakistan, though the paid applications can be obtained through direct payment with a personal credit or debit card.

Pakistani LEAs tightening noose against blasphemers on social media

Date: December 5, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Pakistan arrested and charged 62 social media users with posting ‘blasphemous’ material and propagating hate speech. Out of the arrested, nine citizens have been awarded capital punishment by trial courts while two have been awarded death penalty by high courts.

Countering disinformation in Pakistan: Lessons and recommendations for digital journalism

Date: December 13, 2022 – Source: Freedom Network (FN)

According to a study released by Freedom Network (FN), media and civil society responses to countering disinformation in Pakistan had seen limited success in the face of conceptual, technical, and financial challenges.

Popularity pandemic

Date: December 18, 2022 – Source: Dawn

A cursory glance at social media reveals that many civil servants use their accounts for self-projection, where a photographer is deputed to cover them while performing official duties. This penchant for digital recognition results in officers poking their nose in matters beyond their domain.

Pakistani journalists at risk due to content removal, account blockages and other digital challenges

Date: December 21, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Journalists in Pakistan continue to routinely come under attack in the digital sphere. Online harassment, intimidation, blockages of personal social media accounts and removal of content remain the most pressing threats faced by media professionals.

Islamabad court rejects senator’s bail plea in controversial tweet case

Date: December 22, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Express Tribune

An Islamabad court rejected the plea of Senator Azam Swati in the controversial tweets case against him, stating that the ‘same offence’ had been committed twice despite warnings.

Islamabad High Court grants post-arrest bail to suspect in online hate speech case

Date: December 23, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Islamabad High Court (IHC) granted post-arrest bail to a hate speech suspect against production of Rs50,000 surety bonds. The case was registered by the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Cyber Crimes Wing (CCW).

Pakistani nano-loan applications deceiving users

Date: December 23, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Business Recorder

The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) found that several mobile applications offering nano loans to citizens do not fulfill legal requirements, indulge in deceptive online marketing and collect users’ information without legal cover.

Senator denies posting ‘anti army’ tweets in bail plea

Date: December 25, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Senator Azam Swati filed a bail application claiming that he never posted ‘controversial tweets’ against Pakistan’s armed forces. In his bail plea, Swati disassociated himself from the tweets and sought a post-arrest bail in the case registered against him for inciting mutiny and defamation.

Online defamation: Cyber laws and the dark side of social media

Date: December 28, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan’s courts and the law ought to take more aggressive steps to provide online defamation victims with protection. Courts may also consider extending the standard definition of defamation by holding defendants/accused persons accountable for their offensive remarks on social media platforms.

SECP steps in to shield Pakistani borrowers from digital lenders

Date: December 29, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) restricted the digital lending platforms from taking coercive measures for recoveries of debt and barred them from shifting borrowers’ data to a cloud storage infrastructure outside the jurisdiction of Pakistan.

Fact-check: Fabricated image of US consul general hunting markhor goes viral

Date: December 30, 2022 – Source: The News

Social media posts falsely claimed that the United States Consul General in Lahore illegally hunted a markhor in Pakistan’s northern areas and posted a forged image to support their claim.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Bilawal Bhutto lauds Meta’s monetization feature launch in Pakistan

Date: December 12, 2022 – Source: The News

The director of public policy for merging countries in Meta, Rafael Frankel, appreciated Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto for visiting Meta Headquarters in Singapore and said that his team is thrilled to launch Facebook Stars monetization feature for Pakistan’s video content creators.

After Google, TikTok set to open dedicated office in Pakistan

Date: December 13, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Chinese short video-sharing platform TikTok is set to open a dedicated office in Pakistan with negotiations having been completed between the social media platform and the federal government.

Zong 4G tests its digital nano-bank in Pakistan

Date: December 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Zong 4G initiated the tests of its digital nano-bank ‘PayMax’ in Pakistan to become the last of all the four cellular service providers launching its fin-tech initiative. The mobile-based application – PayMax is likely to be launched in January, 2023.

Information technology parks – a step towards excellence in the digital era

Date: December 21, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

With digital growth going through a rapid evolution, Pakistan is inching towards establishing a vibrant network of state-of-the-art information technology (IT) parks aimed at providing young professionals a launching pad to execute their innovative ideas and contribute to the national economy.

Pakistan earns $854 million from information technology exports

Date: December 22, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan earned $854 million by providing various information technology (IT) services to international clients during the first four months of the fiscal year 2022-2023 recoding a growth of 2.92 per cent as compared to first four months of the previous fiscal year.

Government releases Rs4.2 billion for information technology projects

Date: December 23, 2022 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The federal government released funds amounting to over Rs4.21 billion to execute information technology-related (IT) projects during the first four months of the current fiscal year under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP 2022-2023).

Punjab government begins digital census process to meet deadline

Date: December 29, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Observer

Chief Secretary Punjab Abdullah Khan Sumbal directed authorities to complete security and other arrangements in the province for the impending digital census due to be completed before April 2023.

___________________________________________________________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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