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. 1 January 2020 Edition

Produced by Freedom Network –

SECTION 1: Internet and digital policies and regulations

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

Punjab Assembly passes resolution against blasphemous content on social media

Date: January 1, 2020 – Source: The News

The Punjab Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution against ‘blasphemous content’ on social media with recommendations to follow the Saudi Arabian model to prevent spread of ‘sacrilegious content.’

The ‘Digital Pakistan’ challenge

Date: January 3, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched a ‘Digital Pakistan vision’ that aims to enhance connectivity, improve digital infrastructure, investment in digital skills and literacy, and promote innovation and entrepreneurship.

Government officers urged so use social media responsibly

Date: January 4, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has suggested that social media was taking over electronic media and government officers needed to adapt to the changing scenario.

Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Cell registers over 15,000 cases

Date: January 6, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Federal Investigation Agency has issued a report for the year 2019 in which 15,038 cases of crime were registered at its Cyber Crime Cell in 2019.

Pakistan working on digitalization projects worth $50 million

Date: January 7, 2020 – Source: Technology Times

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhary has informed that Pakistan is working on digitalization projects worth $50 million under an Islamic Development Bank fund.

Governments initiates comprehensive 5G planning in Pakistan

Date: January 8, 2020 – Source: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication

Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has constituted the Advisory Committee for 5G Planning in Pakistan to define a roadmap and finalize recommendations for 5G Technology readiness in Pakistan.

Tania Aidrus aims to unlock Pakistan’s digital future with ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative

Date: January 12, 2020 – Source: Trade Chronicle

Tania Aidrus, the former Google executive professional heading the ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative recently launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan, has described it as having ‘an overreaching vision that aims to unlock the potential of Pakistan’s digital future’.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to spearhead digitalization strategy

Date: January 12, 2020 – Source 1: The Nation; Source 2: Express Tribune

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Government’s Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said that the K-P Government has decided to increase the pace of the strategic implementation of the digitization of the province as part of Digital Pakistan Initiative.

Senate panel recommends pact with Twitter to block fake news

Date: January 16, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology has asked the government to enter into an agreement with Twitter’s management to share information and block fake accounts.

Prime Minister for utilizing digital media to portray positive image of Pakistan

Date: January 19, 2020 – Source: Daily Times

Prime Minister Imran Khan has emphasized the need to utilize digital media as a tool to portray the positive image of Pakistan as well as Islam besides spreading the voice of oppressed people of Indian-held Kashmir across the globe.

Government to purge social media of ‘indecency’

Date: January 20, 2020 – Source: Pakistan Today

After the government announcement of a crackdown against ‘fake news’, the government has decided to go after social media sites to curb down sharing of ‘indecent messages, images and videos.’

Prime Minister invites digital technology firms to invest in Pakistan

Date: January 22, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Prime Minister Imran Khan met with several heads of digital and technology firms, including Christian Klein, the chief operating officer of SAP — a European software cooperation, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube and Joe Kaeser, the CEO of Siemens and invited them to invest in Pakistan.

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

Suspension of social media accounts of Pakistanis by Twitter and Facebook

Date: January 2020 – Source: Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA)

The report “Coercive Censorship, Muted Dissent: Annual Review of Legislative, Legal and Judicial, Developments on Freedom of Expression and Right to Information and Digital Rights in Pakistan” detailed cases of suspension and blockade of social media accounts; and Pakistan-related data from Facebook Transparency Report and Twitter Transparency Report.

Use of cybercrime law against journalists in Pakistan

Date: January 2020 – Source: Institute of Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA)

During 2019 journalists became target of cybercrime law including the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016. Several faced inquiries, abductions, investigations, arrests, and criminal cases due to their online / social media activities and posts.

Crackdown of expression grows in Pakistan

Date: January 14, 2020 – Source: Human Rights Watch

According to the World Report 2020 published by Human Rights Watch, Pakistan’s government has intensified its clampdown on the media, political opposition, and non-governmental organizations in 2019.

Digital Rights Foundation conducts its Sixth National Conference on Privacy

Date: January 22, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation

Digital Rights Foundation conducted its Sixth National Conference on “Privacy: #PrivacyIsARight” in Islamabad to discuss issues relating to artificial intelligence, and algorithmic decision-making in the context of privacy rights.

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

Pakistan and the Digital Agenda 2020

Date: January 5, 2020 – Source: Dawn

At the turn of the decade, it is hoped that Pakistan will be better positioned to take advantage of the leapfrogging opportunity that digitization presents for emerging economies.

Muted media in post-fact Pakistan

Date: January 12, 2020 – Source: The News

Irrespective of whether military has ruled directly or there has been a democratic dispensation, or hybrid democracy (like in the 1990s) or hybrid martial law (like currently) in place, exercising FOE and enforcing RTI are tough rights to enjoy in Pakistan.

Pakistan issues first death sentence for ‘digital’ blasphemy

Date: January 13, 2020 – Source: The Diplomat

Pakistan has sentenced Taimoor Raza, a resident of Bahawalpur, to death for alleged blasphemy. While the accused is yet another in a long list of victims of the country’s blasphemy laws, Raza is the first to be sentenced to death for blasphemy on social media.

Draft cyber law covers terrorism but misses cyber stalking

Date: January 16, 2020 – Source: The News

The soon-to-be-tabled draft of the cyber security bill in the National Assembly still misses several key areas like online blasphemy, cyber stalking, ‘spamming’ and ‘spoofing’ which are considered serious offences in some other countries.

Social media ‘instrumental in spreading fake news

Date: January 16, 2020 – Source: The News

According to a recent study, journalists have identified social media as the hotbed of the spread of false information, noting that the increasing crisis of confidence in journalism is being fed by the weaponization of the term ‘fake news’.

Muddled fight against cybercrime

Date: January 20, 2020 – Source: Dawn

A report by Bytes for All, a human rights organization focusing on information and communication technologies, points out that technology can easily be used to harm and attack women.

Court sentences man to eight years imprisonment for cyber crime

Date: January 24, 2020 – Source: Dawn

A local court in Peshawar has convicted a person under the cybercrimes law for creating fake accounts of a girl on social media and sentenced him on different counts to eight years imprisonment with fine of Rs50,000.

Pakistan needs $234.5 billion to achieve key Sustainable Development Goals

Date: January 28, 2020 – Source: Dawn

According to a report published by the Standard Chartered Bank, Pakistan needs at least $234.5 billion investment by 2030 to deliver on three sustainable development goals — power, digital access, transport and clean water and sanitation.

A silence envelops Pakistan

Date: January 2020 – Source: The News

The intimidation of media in Pakistan in 2019 included attacks on media houses; seven journalists murdered for their work; withholding of government advertising dues; of criminal cases against over a dozen journalists for their private social media postings under the controversial cybercrime law.

Pakistan needs laws which protect public’s data

Date: January 31, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

A new report has highlighted the growing concerns surrounding privacy and the misuse of personal and private data of citizens and grey areas in the legal framework which allow data to be leaked.

Coronavirus: Social media aids spread of misinformation

Date: January 31, 2020 – Source: The News

Numerous conspiracies have appeared in the world since the outbreak — not to mention dubious health advice. Social media users have been sharing advice on ways to treat or prevent the disease. But at least some of the tips have proved to be misleading or false.

SECTION 4: Digitalization in Pakistan

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

Allama Iqbal Open University to achieve digitalization targets

Date: January 1, 2020 – Source: The News

Allama Iqbal Open University has informed that it will try to make maximum headway in achieving stipulated targets of carrying out digital transformation in its academic and administrative services in 2020.

Payment gateway aims to cash in on Pakistan’s growing digital market

Date: January 3, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Cashing in on Pakistan’s growing market is Easypaisa, Pakistan’s first mobile banking platform launched in 2009, which is keen on transforming the way people pay their utility bills and transfer cash to any account.

New e-governance system in pipeline

Date: January 17, 2020 – Source: The News

Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain has said that the government was in the process of improving e-governance system and a system of Key Performance Indicators for evaluation of performance of civil bureaucracy.

Information Technology ministry to introduce e-governance in all ministries by year end

Date: January 17, 2020 – Source: The News

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is confident to complete the task of introducing E-governance system in all ministries by end 2020.

Pakistan adopts roadmap towards cashless, digital society

Date: January 20, 2020 – Source: The Nation

A roadmap has been brought in practice in government’s circles to take the country towards a cashless society. The State Bank of Pakistan earlier launched the National Payment Strategy System in order to build a road map and action plan for Pakistan to have a modern and robust digital payments network.

The government’s vision for a digital Pakistan

Date: January 26, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn; Source 2: Express Tribune

The government’s vision for a digital Pakistan is extensive. It encompasses infrastructure, e-governance, fin-tech, digital skills and training, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Technological progress: On the path to digital transformation

Date: January 26, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

After Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the ‘Digital Pakistan’ initiative last month – a free program with the mission to train over one million people in developing digital skills – the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is now setting up Citizen Facilitation Centers in Peshawar.

Tourism industry to embrace digitalization

Date: January 27, 2020 – Source: Daily Mail Pakistan

Unlike its predecessors, the incumbent government has taken the lead in embracing digital media to project the country’s true tourism potential at national and international levels by adopting effective and open policies in this sector.

I-ways instead of Highways

Date: January 31, 2020 – Source: The News

The rise of digital and online e-society, e-commerce and e-governance in Pakistan to pace with tech savvy world is a far cry as rulers are more obsessed with highways instead of I-ways.


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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