DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – January 2023

DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – January 2023

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. 4, No. 1 January 2023 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 prepares infrastructure-sharing framework for telecommunication sector

Date: January 6, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Business Recorder (BR)

Federal Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication finalized the draft of the Infrastructure Sharing Framework to boost competition as well as reduce the cost of doing business for mobile and internet service providers in Pakistan.

Government prepares first spectrum refarming framework

Date: January 11, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Business Recorder (BR)

The Federal Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication finalized the draft of Pakistan’s first-ever Telecom Airwaves Spectrum Refarming Framework with recommendations from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Frequency Allocation Board (FAB).

Digital blackout in Pakistan as half of telecommunication towers shut for lack of power

Date: January 24, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Reuters

Amid a country-wide power outage, almost half of around 45,000 telecommunication towers were rendered inoperative due to lack of fuel and other technical reasons. As a result, telecommunication and internet links were cut off with most of the remote and some urban parts of 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

Helping Pakistani children navigate the internet

Date: January 1, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Conditions on the digital realm are changing and children need to be protected from the vices prevalent on the internet. Children need to be taught that it is alright to seek help if they find themselves in a vulnerable situation online.

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

Pakistani actor threatens YouTube vlogger over defamatory claims

Date: January 4, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Pakistani actor Kubra Khan threatened to sue a YouTube vlogger Adil Raja for defamation after he alleged in a video that four ‘top models and actresses’ had illicit relationships with top military officials.

Pakistani army officer sues YouTube vlogger in the United Kingdom for defamation

Date: January 4, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News

Shortly after a retired major made scandalous accusations against leading Pakistani actresses on YouTube, it emerged that a serving military officer sued controversial YouTube vlogger Adil Raja, in the United Kingdom over a separate set of allegations.

Pakistani activist indicted for hate speech, cyber-terrorism

Date: January 5, 2023 – Source: Dawn

A local court in Peshawar indicted civil society activist Professor Muhammad Ismail on charges of propagating hate speech, committing cyber-terrorism and spreading fake information against government institutions on social media platforms.

Online content without proof – ‘Easy targets’ in a political feud

Date: January 5, 2023 – Source: Dawn

In the midst of a political tug-of-war between Pakistan’s political parties and military establishment, a YouTube pundit made startling claims regarding illicit relations between film actresses and military officials. Such unwarranted opinions make it difficult to counter fake news and misinformation.

Court orders removal of defamatory content against Pakistani actress from social media

Date: January 7, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Pakistan Today

The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block any defamatory and scandalous content material being disseminated on social media sites against Pakistani actress Kubra Khan.

Federal government issues dark web advisory to ministries

Date: January 7, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

The federal government sent a cybersecurity advisory to all its ministries as well as provincial departments to take necessary measures to prevent official data from being hacked or put on the dark.

Sindh High Court summons YouTuber for posting defamatory content

Date: January 7, 2023 – Source: Express Tribune

The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued notices to YouTube content creator Adil Farooq Raja and others on the plea of actress Kubra Khan against the online publication of defamatory content against the actress and ordered authorities to block any such content.

Telecommunication regulator blocks 1.1 million URLs for containing ‘unlawful content’ in 2022

Date: January 11, 2023 – Source: The News

According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), as many as 1.1 million uniform resource locators (URLs) were blocked in 2022 for containing and dissemination ‘unlawful and hateful’ content.

Removal of scandalous online content against actress Mehwish Hayat ordered

Date: January 12, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Pakistan Today

The Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to block defamatory and scandalous content being disseminated against Pakistani actress Mehwish Hayat on social media platforms.

Pakistan’s parliament now a ‘no-go area’ for social media influencers

Date: January 14, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The National Assembly Secretariat banned the entry of social media influencers and content creators in the precinct of the Parliament House. The decision has been taken in the wake of an incident involving a content creator misbehaving with parliamentarians.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

What Pakistan stands to gain if Google opens shop

Date: January 1, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said that a localized Google infrastructure will be beneficial for Pakistani creators and businesses. He claimed that content creators would ‘multiply’ their revenue and boost the country’s foreign reserves.

Rising costs, connectivity outages – a tough year for Pakistan’s information technology sector

Date: January 1, 2023 – Source: Dawn

It was a tough year for Pakistan’s information technology sector, with telecommunication operators and users taking the brunt, especially after a change in government and the belt-tightening that followed. Call and internet rates jumped and yet the service quality worsened and speeds slowed in 2022.

Federal government extracts Rs100 billion more from telecommunication sector

Date: January 11, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The consumers of telecommunication and internet services paid Rs100 billion more in duties and levies during the fiscal year 2021-2022, as the incumbent government raised tax rates soon after coming to power in April 2022.

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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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