DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – February 2022

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – February 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. 2 February 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

Government directs PTA to renew mobile phone operator’s license

Date: February 4, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Federal Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication issued a directive to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) for renewal of operating license of mobile operator Jazz, which is set to expire this year.

Telecommunication operators in Pakistan wary of government’s 5G launch plan

Date: February 10, 2022 – Source: Dawn

As the federal government’s efforts to roll out 5G mobile phone connectivity pick up, telecommunication operators in Pakistan remain reluctant to enter race for a paradigm shift in technology.

Federal government to auction 5G spectrum in next fiscal year

Date: February 10, 2022 – Source: The News

The federal government constituted an ‘Advisory Committee’ under the chairmanship of Federal Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin along with 12 other members for conducting 5G Spectrum auction during the next fiscal year 2022-2023.

Federal cabinet approves Pakistan’s Cloud First Policy, Personal Data Protection Bill

Date: February 16, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The federal cabinet approved the Cloud First Policy and the Personal Data Protection Bill, noting that the decision was crucial to move Pakistan further into the digital world.

Economical internet services via satellite connectivity on the cards in Pakistan

Date: February 16, 2022 – Source: The News

Pakistani authorities announced talks with Starlink for getting cheaper internet services via their satellite network as the country is in the process of rolling out its 5G connectivity program.

Federal government set to regulate social media in Pakistan through presidential ordinance

Date: February 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn

In another move to regulate social media in Pakistan despite criticism from stakeholders and digital rights activists, the federal government is set to promulgate a presidential ordinance declaring defamation of people and institutions on social media a cognizable offence.

Federal government toughens laws against online defamation, fake news

Date: February 20, 2022 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Arab News, Source 3: Voice of America

The federal government made changes in two laws that would pave the way for penalizing defamation against Pakistan’s armed forces, judiciary, public servants and government institutions.

Online defamation now a non-bailable offence in Pakistan

Date: February 21, 2022 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: South Asia Monitor (SAM)

President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated an ordinance to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) increasing the jail term from three to five years by making a change in Section 20 of the law and making online defamation a cognizable and non-bailable offence.

Federal government defends ordinance amending cybercrime law

Date: February 21, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Federal Minister for Law Farogh Naseem brushed aside the impression that the amended ordinance would target freedom of media and said it was only meant to bring about reforms in Pakistan’s media sector, where ‘disinformation had badly damaged the social norms and defamed many’.

Federal government defends PECA amendment amid criticism

Date: February 22, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

The federal government defended the newly promulgated ordinance amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 amid criticism from industry stakeholders and digital rights activists.

Damage to undersea cable slows down internet speed across Pakistan

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

Internet services across Pakistan suffered disruption after one of the two undersea cables operated by a private telecommunication company was damaged near Karachi.

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

Political parties, activists defend digital rights after latest electronic crimes law tweaks

Date: February 23, 2022 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Duetsche Welle (DW)

The federal government continued to come under pressure by political parties, digital rights activists and the civil society over the amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 with charges being challenged in high courts of Islamabad and Lahore.

Civil society, digital media outlets sign joint petition condemning PECA ordinance

Date: February 23, 2022 – Source 1: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM), Source 2: Freedom Network (FN)

A coalition of civil society organizations, digital media outlets, political collectives and individuals signed a joint statement expressing concern over the recently passed amendments in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) through a presidential ordinance.

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

Chief Justice concerned over scandalizing of judges on social media in Pakistan

Date: February 2, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: The Nation

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial identified the ‘scandalization’ of judges on various social media platforms as one of the two main challenges faced by Pakistan’s judiciary, the other being the massive backlog of cases.

Information warfare in Pakistan

Date: February 6, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The new battlefield between states has nothing to do with tanks or fighter aircraft. It is about artificial intelligence and machine learning in targeting each other’s information systems and communication platforms. Pakistan needs an information monitoring system that searches – and filters – online content.

Police in United Kingdom alert Pakistani dissidents to threats

Date: February 7, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: The Guardian

The Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) in the United Kingdom warned Pakistanis living in exile about threats to their lives and asked them to keep a low profile. These include journalists and social media bloggers who are critical of Pakistan’s state authorities.

Carmaker faces boycott calls in India after Pakistan partner’s tweet on Kashmir

Date: February 8, 2022 – Source: The News

South Korean carmaker Hyundai Motor faced calls for a boycott of its cars from Indians incensed over a tweet from the account of its Pakistan partner that expressed solidarity for the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

Plea seeking ban on video game in Pakistan dismissed

Date: February 8, 2022 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

The Lahore High Court (LHC) dismissed a plea for imposition of ban on PUBG, an online video game, as neither the petition nor his counsel appeared before the court to pursue the case.

Police urges federal government to ban video game in Pakistan

Date: February 10, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Punjab police lodged a writ petition and requested the federal government to issue a complete ban on violent video games, particularly on online game PUBG, saying that such games are causing criminal tendencies among teenagers.

Federal Investigation Agency arrests individual for ‘online vilification’ of Prime Minister’s wife

Date: February 15, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Federal Investigation Agency’ (FIA) Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) arrested a man in connection with running a ‘malicious campaign’ against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi on social media platforms.

TikTok removes over 6 million videos from Pakistan for violating community guidelines

Date: February 15, 2022 – Source: The News

Video-sharing platform TikTok removed over six million videos from Pakistan for violation of its community guidelines during the third quarter of 2021. The country ranked fourth in the world for the largest volume of videos take down from the platform.

Online defamation amendment goes against decisions of courts

Date: February 21, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act Ordinance 2022 is likely to open floodgates of cases against ‘controversial’ social media content, as it has not only made online defamation a cognizable offense but also broadened the ambit of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

New online defamation law ignites debate across Pakistan

Date: February 21, 2022 – Source: The News

The signing of two ordinances by President Dr Arif Alvi, making changes in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, ignited a heated debate in the media about the consequences of the government move for freedom of expression in Pakistan.

Cyber law changes assailed in Islamabad, Lahore high courts

Date: February 23, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Premier lawyers’ bodies across Pakistan stepped up to denounce the federal government for introducing amendments to the country’s controversial electronic crimes law, which have been challenged in the Islamabad and Lahore high courts and are set to land in the apex court.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

PTA mulls restricting freewill tariff increase by mobile operators in Pakistan

Date: February 2, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said it was planning to contain the dominating position of mobile phone operators in Pakistan by restricting freewill tariff increase and utilizing profits for other telecommunication services.

Pakistan’s ‘mini-budget’ a threat to digital revolution

Date: February 9, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Tax revisions for the telecommunication sector in the federal government’s ‘mini-budget’ have vexed industry stakeholders, who urged the government to ensure consistency in policies to achieve the vision of ‘Digital Pakistan’.

Discouraging ‘Digital Pakistan’

Date: February 12, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The federal government has increased tax on mobile connectivity and the internet by 50 per cent, as well as on advanced mobile phone sets through the ‘mini-budget’. This move will impact the poor most, stunt digital progress, impact IT exports and reduce the competitiveness of Pakistani freelancers.

The riders of Pakistan’s e-commerce storm

Date: February 13, 2022 – Source: Dawn

The ‘gig economy’ has taken off in Pakistan in a big way. However, while technology start-ups continue to make news for securing millions of dollars in investments, the riders – those turning the wheels of these companies’ ambitious visions – are not seeing the benefits of this growth.

Information technology ministry completes groundwork for government move to cloud technology

Date: February 20, 2022 – Source: Dawn

After consent from the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is set to enforce the national cloud policy in all government, semi-government and autonomous bodies.

Pakistan set to become net mobile handset exporter

Date: February 22, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan seems set on its way of becoming a net exporter of mobile handsets as nearly 30 companies have registered for domestic mobile phone manufacturing and assembly license.

Prime Minister announces zero tax for information technology freelancers

Date: February 22, 2022 – Source: Dawn

Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a zero tax rate for Pakistan’s digital freelancers in the information technology sector.

Smartphones outnumber 2G phone sets in Pakistan

Date: February 28, 2022 – Source: Dawn

According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the number of smartphone users in Pakistan surpassed those using 2G mobile phone sets for the first time in the country’s history.

Pakistan’s telecommunication boom

Date: February 28, 2022 – Source: Express Tribune

There is much hope that by second half of 2022, Pakistan will feature among one of the fastest growing mobile phone exporters in the world. This is because the country’s telecommunication sector is witnessing a ‘paradigm shift’ with the growth in exports of locally manufactured mobile phone handsets.

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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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