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. 3 March 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

Government forms body to review new social media regulations
Date: March 2, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Amid clamor and confusion, Pakistan’s government has appointed a committee to review the country’s new social media regulations.
Implementation of online rules suspended
Date: March 3, 2020 – Source: Dawn
After over 100 rights organizations and individuals announced a boycott of talks with the government on the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 unless the rules were revoked, the authorities have clarified that the implementation of rules has been suspended.
Government to set up media wing to lead digital diplomacy
Date: March 17, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The government has decided to set up a 23-member media team to devise and lead strategy around digital diplomacy.
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

No Consultation without withdrawal of cabinet approval of Online Protection Rules 2020
Date: March 1, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation
Stakeholders have demanded that the government should withdraw its Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 before any consultation on its review can begin.
Nighat Dad, Pakistan’s digital warrior battling the patriarchy
Date: March 2, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Dad formed the Digital Rights Foundation, a think tank tackling digital rights through a gender lens, in 2012, winning her recognition as one of Time magazine’s next generation leaders in 2015 and a Human Rights Tulip award in 2016.
Rights groups to boycott talks with government over online rules
Date: March 2, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Over 100 rights organizations and individuals have decided to boycott government consultation on the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020 unless the cabinet withdraws the rules it approved on February 11.
Controlling Dissent
Date: March 2, 2020 – Source: Bolo Bhi
Governments fully recognize the influence of social media on offline political opinions of their voters and are willing to engage in engineering online spaces to achieve the desired results.
Media, lawyers, civil society resolve to resist curbs on freedom of speech, including online free speech
Date: March 5, 2020 – Source: The News
Media and lawyers’ organizations, civil society, political parties and other stakeholders have resolved to resist attempts to curb freedom of speech and expression in the country, including online free speech.
Digital dark age
Date: March 11, 2020 – Source: The News
In more autocratic parts of the world, access to information is considered dangerous. Those in power prefer not to face inconvenient questions from journalists or the public. The spread of internet access has been accompanied by a proliferation of new laws aimed at cracking down on dissent.
Protecting your digital rights during the Covid-19 outbreak
Date: March 13, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation
While the gravity of the outbreak is being felt in the medical field, it is also being felt that the situation has implications on digital rights, and these implications are not being addressed.
Launch of reporting portal to combat online child sexual abuse material in Pakistan
Date: March 19, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation
Digital Rights Foundation in collaboration with the Internet Watch Foundation and the Global Fund to End Violence Against Children are launching a portal to combat children’s online safety in Pakistan.
The digital gap during the Covid-19 pandemic is exasperating inequalities
Date: March 31, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation
Digital Rights Foundation and Bolo Bhi posit that an uncritical embrace of technology should not ignore the fact that access to technologies is still a luxury for many and provision of internet is very low in countries such as Pakistan.
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

The future of media in Pakistan is digital
Date: March 1, 2020 – Source: The News
One way to understand the state of the internet in Pakistan is to roughly view the digital domain in two broad sections of (i) formal news and informal information space, and (ii) the broader non-news business space where the rest of everything happens. Preventing digital rights violations is important.
Surveillance culture undermines digital rights
Date: March 1, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Considering how backward the country otherwise is vis-à-vis the fourth industrial revolution, Pakistan has been remarkably adept at harnessing digital technologies for surveillance and psychological warfare.
Low cybercrime convictions baffles senators
Date: March 5, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
The Senate Standing Committee on IT met at the Parliament House under the chairpersonship of Senator Rubina Khalid. The meeting was briefed that the FIA had received more than 56,000 complaints of cybercrimes during last year.
Pakistan ranked least internet inclusive country in South Asia
Date: March 5, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Pakistan has been ranked 76th out of 100 countries on the inclusive internet index 2020 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, falling into the last quartile of the global index overall.
Dark web crimes continue to target women
Date: March 8, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
According to the latest report of the Digital Rights Foundation, a Pakistani research and advocacy NGO, 40 % of female internet users in Pakistan have experienced some harassment via social media platforms and messaging applications.
Internet access in Pakistan restricted: report
Date: March 16, 2020 – Source: The News
The annual Economist Intelligence Unit which measures access to the internet among countries in terms of availability, affordability and people’s ability to use the web has placed Pakistan at 76th out of 100 countries.
Virtual portal to report child abuse images launched
Date: March 23, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
With cases of child abuse and violence against children shaking the nation to its core recently, an online portal to report child sexual abuse was launched in Islamabad which will allow people to report and remove content online which pertains to child sexual abuse.
Activists fear that privacy rights may fall victim to pandemic
Date: March 30, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Digital surveillance and smartphone technology may prove helpful in containing the coronavirus pandemic — but some activists fear this could mean lasting harm to privacy and digital rights.
SECTION 4: Digitalization in Pakistan

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

Investigation officers educated on investigation through computers, mobiles
Date: March 6, 2020 – Source: The News
Investigative Officers of Rawalpindi police region were educated on range of crimes committed through computers, mobiles, USB and digital media by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency.
Supreme Court orders Khyber Pakhtunkhwa govt to make digital records of public properties
Date: March 7, 2020 – Source: The News
The Supreme Court has directed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to prepare and maintain a complete physical and electronic/digital record of all public properties.
Virus closure make classes go digital in Pakistan
Date: March 9, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The speed and scale of the educational tumult has left millions of teachers and students at the mercy of online learning — a method that is mostly unfamiliar and untested in Pakistan.
Introducing e-health legislation in Pakistan
Date: March 11, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Healthcare is now widely supported by electronic systems which provide the basis for e-management of an efficient and timely health system. E-Health has already begun seeping its way into healthcare in Pakistan, and this is revolutionizing the healthcare industry for the better.
Female online food services become famous in twin cities
Date: March 16, 2020 – Source: The News
The increasing opportunities of online livelihood and employment in the rapidly changing economic situation have encouraged women to step out of their houses and open new doors of providing food services through online platforms.
Can Covid-19 trigger a digital revolution in Pakistan?
Date: March 18, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Coronavirus is a calamity. It is also Pakistan’s biggest opportunity to make the great escape from its own atrophied bureaucratic processes and years of poverty, disease, hunger and misgovernance. Let Pakistan’s finest professionals at home and abroad come forward to accept this challenge.
Private schools want to hold online classes from their premises during lockdown
Date: March 19, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
As schools shut down in the twin cities following a government directive to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus amongst students, private educational establishments have urged the government to at least allow their teachers to visit the facilities to be able to conduct online classes.
Government to launch ‘Corona App’ to contain spread
Date: March 20, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has decided to develop a mobile application – Corona App – to deal with coronavirus outbreak with the help of technology.
First digital city in Haripur
Date: March 20, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Advisor to Chief Minister on Information Technology Ziauddin Bangash has said that with the establishment of the first Digital City in the district, it will open a new chapter in the development and prosperity of the region.
Pakistan eyes China’s 2003 e-commerce steps to fight coronavirus
Date: March 21, 2020 – Source: The News
Pakistan opted to follow China, taking a number of measures to reduce the need for visiting bank branches or the ATMs and to promote use of Digital Payment Services such as internet banking and mobile phone banking, as part of its efforts to control the spread of coronavirus.
Educational courses to TV channels soon
Date: March 25, 2020 – Source: The News
Federal minister for education and professional training Shafqat Mahmood has said the government had started work for broadcasting educational courses during the closure of schools on different TV channels soon.
PM launches Islamabad Capital Territory City Application
Date: March 26, 2020 – Source: The News
Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched Islamabad Capital Territory City App, which had been developed with the collective efforts of the Islamabad administration and the National Information Technology Board, bringing various departments on one page.
Prime Minister inaugurates e-service mobile application
Date: March 26, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Prime Minister Imran Khan has inaugurated an e-services mobile application, designed to provide government services to people at their doorsteps.
Pakistan marks Earth Hour digitally amid virus scare
Date: March 29, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Pakistan on Saturday observed the Earth Hour 2020 virtually amid coronavirus pandemic and marked a moment of solidarity for the planet.
Higher Education Commission instructs educators to start e-learning by June 1
Date: March 30, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
With the government announcing to close all educational institutions across the country until May 31, a new set of guidelines have been issued by the higher education watchdog for universities to switch over to e-learning methods and save the ongoing academic year for students.
Digital mapping of coronavirus patients being conducted in Sindh
Date: March 31, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Digital mapping would help in tracing the travel history of the patients and their social contacts before they were tested positive for Covid-19.
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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