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. 5, No. 1 January 2024 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

Government establishes specialized tribunal for Pakistan’s telecommunication sector

Date: January 5, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Business Recorder (BR)

The federal government established the Telecommunication Appellate Tribunal (TAT), a specialized three-member tribunal tasked with resolving legal issues related to Pakistan’s telecommunication sector.

Starlink, Web1 likely to operate in Pakistan following successful policy initiatives

Date: January 6, 2024 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Pakistan Today

The federal government claimed to have successfully implemented key initiatives, including routing freelancers’ remittances through third parties and enabling companies to utilize low-orbit satellites for swift internet services, clearing the pathway for Starlink and Web1 to start their operations in Pakistan.

Internet outages in Pakistan hit PTI’s bid to launch manifesto, raise funds online

Date: January 8, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: France 24

A bid by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to launch its election manifesto and raise funds through a telethon was stymied after a total blackout of social media sites was reported throughout Pakistan.

Pakistani telecommunication operators decry social media blackout

Date: January 9, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

The Telecom Operators Association (TOA) expressed concern over what it called the internet throttling and blockage of social media platforms that affected the populace of Pakistan.

PTI asks Supreme Court to take notice of internet disruption in Pakistan

Date: January 9, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) urged the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) to take notice of the suspension of internet services and blockage of social media websites during the party’s fund-raising telethon.

Internet outage hits another attempt by PTI to hold online event

Date: January 21, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Internet services in Pakistan were disrupted as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) attempted to organize a virtual political event to raise funds and interact with its supporters through social media websites.

Government refuses to guarantee end to internet blockages in Pakistan

Date: January 23, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

The caretaker federal government blamed ‘technical and system installation issues’ for internet outages across Pakistan and said there is ‘no guarantee’ such incidents won’t occur in the future.

PTA must come clean about the ‘upgrade’ causing internet disruptions

Date: January 23, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Social media platforms have been blocked in Pakistan on more than six occasions in 2023, each time without any prior announcement. The latest instance was claimed as a ‘technical issue’ by the government, with digital rights activists remaining unconvinced with such explanations.

Sindh High Court instructs PTA to ensure uninterrupted internet, cellular services across Pakistan

Date: January 25, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune

The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the federal government to ensure that there was no more disruption and shutdown of cellular phone and internet services unless provisions of relevant rules are attracted.

Of internet outages and bizarre excuses

Date: January 26, 2024 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Internet shutdowns and disruptions to social media services in Pakistan have become regular occurrences, leading many to attribute motive of actions of Pakistani officialdom since these outages have ended up being coinciding with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) holding of virtual events.

Cellphone users in Pakistan rise to over 192 million

Date: January 27, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced that its revenue increased to Rs850 billion as cellular and broadband internet users in Pakistan crossed the 192 million and 130 million mark in 2023 respectively.

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

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

Senate body calls for banning websites exposing children to pornography

Date: January 6, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Business Recorder (BR)

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior directed concerned authorities to take steps to ban websites containing questionable material and control growing exposure of children to online pornography.

Government forms investigative team to probe ‘malicious’ social media drive against judges

Date: January 17, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Arab News

The federal government formed a five-member joint investigation team (JIT) to ‘ascertain facts behind a malicious social media campaign’ against Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) judges.

Judges in the crosshairs of social media trolling

Date: January 18, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

Criticism of a judgement is one thing; however, abusing, maligning and blaming judges for not being neutral or alleging they are deriving monetary or professional benefits is another thing. The former generates dialogue. The latter generates a cesspool of accusations, blame game and polarization.

PTI aspirants rely on social media for election campaign

Date: January 20, 2024 – Source: Dawn

The candidates belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) have mainly relied on social media and telephone calls to run their election campaigns due to ‘on-ground hardships’ allegedly created by state institutions for them.

TikTok shares approach to upholding, protecting election integrity in Pakistan

Date: January 24, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Business Recorder (BR)

TikTok, a video-sharing platform, announced a comprehensive plan to maintain the integrity of its platform during upcoming parliamentary elections in Pakistan, with measures in place to counteract misinformation, violence, and hate speech.

Fact, fiction, and some truth

Date: January 25, 2024 – Source: The News

As artificial intelligence (AI) and social media grow, people must learn to use tools and other checks that can differentiate real news from false information as political parties, and other groups, direct information to their audience meant for a specific purpose or aim.

How a messaging bot is helping PTI supporters

Date: January 26, 2024 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Dialogue Pakistan (DP)

Using Facebook’s ‘Automated Responses’ feature, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) introduced a messaging bot to update its voters on the symbols assigned to its new independent candidates.

Changing times

Date: January 27, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Pakistani politics has undergone a paradigm shift, with proliferation of new virtual mediums through which highly potent political narratives can be disseminated, shared, commented upon and augmented bringing about a sea change in how narrative battles are being and will be fought.

PTI’s websites ‘blocked’ in Pakistan

Date: January 27, 2024 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Business Recorder (BR)

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) claimed that its official websites were ‘blocked’ within Pakistan ahead of the general election scheduled in February, demanding an explanation from state authorities.

Government claims ‘no witch-hunt’ in probe into online trolling of SC judges

Date: January 29, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Brushing aside reports about harassment of journalists in the matter related to a ‘malicious’ social media campaign against Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) judges, caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said a joint investigation agency (JIT) is probing the matter in accordance with law.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Business council urges incoming government to reduce taxes on telecommunication sector

Date: January 4, 2024 – Source: The News

The Pakistan Business Council (PBC) recommended that the incoming federal government should reduce the incidence of taxation on all facets of connectivity and remove impediments to further investment in Pakistan’s telecommunication sector.

Pakistan’s telecommunication industry urges incentivizing digital payments

Date: January 4, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

Telecommunication stakeholders in Pakistan urged the federal government to incentivize the use of digital payments, with such payment gateways helpful in documenting and formalizing the country’s cash-dependent economy.

Liberal financial regime to help double Pakistan’s information technology exports

Date: January 6, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Caretaker Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Dr Umar Saif said steps have been taken to liberalize the financial regime that will help double Pakistan’s information technology (IT) exports and facilitate digital freelancers to receive their remittances legally.

Pakistani freelancers to receive PayPal payments through third-party firm

Date: January 6, 2024 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Geo News

PayPal, a global online payment system, signed an agreement with Payoneer, a third party digital payment gateway, to secure and release remittances earned by digital and financial freelancers operating from Pakistan.

Pakistan to begin PayPal payments to digital freelancers

Date: January 12, 2024 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Pakistan Today

In a significant development for Pakistan’s freelance industry, the federal government announced that a pilot project enabling payments to 10,000 digital freelancers through PayPal, an online payment system, is set to commence in February.

Government mulling plan to make smartphones affordable for Pakistani citizens

Date: January 12, 2024 – Source: The News

Sources in the Federal Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication said that the federal government would provide smart phones on easy installments and at a cheaper rate for all citizens of Pakistan.

Lessons learnt for Pakistan’s telecommunication sector

Date: January 15, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

A stable regulatory environment is paramount for the flourishing of any industry, and telecommunications are no exception. Unfortunately, Pakistan grapples with challenges such as unfriendly policies and a lack of transparency.

Google Trends launches Pakistan election page

Date: January 17, 2024 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The Friday Times (TFT)

Search engine giant, Google, launched a Google Trends Pakistan General Election page to help media outlets and people access data about what political searches are trending in the country.

Climate and artificial intelligence

Date: January 18, 2024 – Source: The News

It is important that developed nations transfer financial and technical support to developing and climate-hit nations to develop their capacity to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to fight climate change.

Pakistan’s information technology exports rise on fair policies

Date: January 18, 2024 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan’s information technology (IT) exports rose 17 percent and reached $303 million in December 2023 against exports of $259 million in November, as the country’s IT experts and freelancers continued to make inroads into international markets.

Artificial intelligence in education

Date: January 19, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Artificial intelligence (AI) has a lot of potential in education. It can, in principle, allow us to reach more children, than the current schooling model. If it delivers on its promise, it will change the education sector significantly and many teacher-related tasks will become automated.

Localizing cellphone production in Pakistan

Date: January 22, 2024 – Source: Dawn

Pakistan is considered one of the fastest-growing countries in the telecommunication market. However, the number of domestic cellphone manufacturing companies reduced to 30 from 46 in 2023 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and import restrictions.


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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