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. 10  October 2023 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 puts 5G spectrum auction plan into motion

Date: October 12, 2023 – Source: Express Tribune

Caretaker Information Technology Minister Dr Umar Saif said that the federal cabinet had green-lighted the auction of the 5G spectrum and a Spectrum Auction Advisory Committee had been established to oversee the process. 

Pakistan to study Malaysian 5G rollout approach

Date: October 18, 2023 – Source 1: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), Source 2: Daily Times

Caretaker Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Dr Umar Saif expressed Pakistan’s intention to learn from Malaysia’s innovative approach and policies for the rollout of 5G technology.

Government forms committee for 5G auction

Date: October 26, 2023 – Source: Express Tribune

Caretaker Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Dr Umar Saif announced that the federal cabinet had approved the Telecom Infrastructure Sharing Framework and the formation of a committee for the auction of 5G spectrum. 

Telenor plans strategic solution for its Pakistan business by year-end

Date: October 26, 2023 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Reuters, Source 3: Arab News

Sigve Brekke, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Norwegian telecom operator Telenor, said his company hopes to decide on a strategic solution for its Pakistan business by year-end as discussions with interested parties were moving ahead. 

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

Conference explores challenges in access to online information for Pakistan’s marginalized communities

Date: October 1, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

UNESCO, in collaboration with the Peace and Justice Network (PJN) and the Pakistan Information Commission (PIC), organized a conference aimed at bolstering access to online information and assistance for Pakistan’s marginalized minority communities.

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

Online, unsafe and censored

Date: October 1, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Laiba Zainab, a journalist based in Lahore, works for an online news platform. She has been repeatedly subjected to online harassment and trolling leading her to adopt a form of self-censorship when expressing herself on social and digital media platforms. 

In Pakistan, women journalists are breaking barriers in the face of online harassment

Date: October 2, 2023 – Source: International Journalists’ Network (IJN)

Attacks and censorship targeting women reporters are key contributors to Pakistan’s declining press freedom. Women journalists remain frequent targets of harassment on social media. Attacks include gender-based slurs, threats of violence, and attempts to hack into their online accounts.

Flashy photos of official vehicles on social media provoke ire of Punjab’s bureaucracy

Date: October 7, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Following a surge in government officers showcasing their official vehicles and posting on-duty images on social media, the Punjab government issued a directive warning all officers against sharing their personal opinions or statements on any digital or social platform. 

Religious scholars to help promote responsible internet usage in Pakistan

Date: October 11, 2023 – Source: Dawn

An event was held in Islamabad to develop a collaborative effort between Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and religious leaders to address the challenges of social media and the internet while promoting a digital environment that aligns with cultural and religious values. 

Government notifies emergency rules to bolster cybersecurity

Date: October 13, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Business Recorder (BR)

The Federal Ministry for Information Technology and Telecommunication notified the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Rules 2023 to counter cyber threats against government data. 

Online freedoms

Date: October 14, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Governments need to prioritize robust data protection for their citizens, especially as an increasing number of entities in the private sector exploit personal information. Any nation failing to offer this layer of safety is doing a significant disservice. 

Combating disinformation

Date: October 14, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The inoculation approach has held a high success rate- Well-designed, targeted media and information literacy campaigns in all major local languages, and the translation and distribution of existing gamified tools and their mass distribution through popular platforms could make a substantial difference. 

PML-N, IPP on same page over PTI’s ‘misuse’ of state funds for social media campaigns

Date: October 26, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Istehkaam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP) called for action against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for allegedly misusing Rs870 million state fund for hiring ‘trolls and influencers’ for ‘malicious’ social media campaigns. 

TikTok removes 14.14 million videos in Pakistan

Date: October 27, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Digital Rights Monitor (DRM)

Short-video sharing platform TikTok removed 14.14 million videos originating from Pakistan for violating its community guidelines during April and June 2023. 

SECTION 4: Digitalization 

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

Pakistan’s information technology sector set to become third largest exporter

Date: October 6, 2023 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan’s software and information technology (IT) sector is on the verge of becoming the country’s third-largest export sector, with industry insiders projecting export earnings to reach a substantial $3 billion in the fiscal year 2023-2024.

Digital pedagogy in Pakistan

Date: October 6, 2023 – Source: Dawn

Digital pedagogy is vastly different from in-person teaching and learning. Technology-mediated teaching leads to active involvement, collaboration and personalized learning that is not possible within the confines of a traditional teaching framework.

Every fifth Pakistani enjoys playing video games on mobile phones

Date: October 7, 2023 – Source: Dawn

According to a Gallup Pakistan (GP) poll, every fifth person in Pakistan is a fan of playing video games on their mobile devices while most people do not allow minors to use phones. 


OBJECTIVESThis 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 SOURCESThis 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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