Digital Media & Online Free Speech

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

Government of Balochistan bans sharing patients’ personal information online
Date: June 4, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: Balochistan Express
The Government of Balochistan completely banned sharing personal information of patients infected with the novel coronavirus, citing that the patients are more prone to depression after seeing their names being circulated publicly.

Cyber harassment complaints surged during lockdown
Date: June 4, 2020 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: News Update Pakistan
The Digital Rights Foundation has reported a 189 per cent increase in complaints registered with its Cyber Harassment Helpline during Pakistan’s coronavirus lockdown.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s ambiguous order to register VPNs for ‘legitimate’ use
Date: June 8, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor
The directive would allow users to ‘whitelist’ their VPNs to access ‘legitimate’ internet traffic. It is imperative to state that many businesses use VPNs to build internal communication infrastructures, and they also help internet users in accessing public and unsecure internet connections without any risk.

Consumers feel exposed to online scams
Date: June 9, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
While e-commerce has recorded an unprecedented boom during the current pandemic restrictions, consumers have blamed online shopping portals for spreading misinformation about their products and services.

What privacy rights are we willing to forego to defeat the virus?
Date: June 9, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor
With coronavirus cases rising rapidly across nation-states, some governments and administrations are implementing dangerously invasive Covid-19 contact tracing policies. These are in gross violation of individual rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

Federal Investigation Agency opposes plea for criminal case against US blogger
Date: June 10, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Times of Pakistan
The Federal Investigation Agency opposed a petition seeking registration of a criminal case against US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie and requested the district and sessions court to dismiss it accordingly since the petitioner was not an aggrieved person in the matter.

Analysis highlights privacy concerns in Pakistan Government’s Covid-19 application
Date: June 11, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor
Analysis by an independent French software expert and ethical hacker has raised serious concerns over privacy of data in the recently launched Covid-19 application by the Government of Pakistan.

Government’s Covid-19 application sparks furor over security flaws
Date: June 11, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Pakistan Today, Source 3: Technology Review
The National Information Technology Board responded to recent allegations that the Covid-19 government application, claiming to help curb the spread of coronavirus is a threat to the personal data of its Pakistani users.

Police refuse to register case against US blogger
Date: June 13, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: 92 News, Source 3: Dawn
The Islamabad Police refused to register a case against US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie citing that it was a cybercrime case and fell under the ambit of the Federal Investigation Agency.

Capital administration warns of action over false information about Covid-19
Date: June 13, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The capital administration issued warning of strict action against those involved in spreading false information about Covid-19.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says it cannot act against Cynthia Ritchie
Date: June 14, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority expressed its inability to proceed against Cynthia Ritchie taking the stance that the authority lacked the jurisdiction to proceed aga­inst an individual over an alleged controversial tweet.

Increasing online censorship is not acceptable
Date: June 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The ad-hoc manner in which powers have been exercised by the government, to stifle dissent and deny due process to those against whom action has been taken — evidence of which there is plenty — substantiate that it serves no purpose other than being a censorship-enabling provision for the state.

Court asks Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against Cynthia Ritchie
Date: June 16, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The News, Source 3: Express Tribune
An additional district and sessions judge directed the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie for allegedly defaming former prime minister of Pakistan and slain Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto.

Bani Gala Station House Officer called in US blogger case
Date: June 18, 2020 – Source 1: Pakistan Today, Source 2: Express Tribune
A local court summoned the Station House Officer of Bani Gala Police Station in a case regarding the defamation of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto by US blogger Cynthia Richie.

US blogger challenges ruling against her in Islamabad High Court
Date: June 19, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune
US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie filed an appeal against the directive of a court to the Federal Investigation Agency to proceed against her in connection with the case of defaming former prime minister Benazir Bhutto on social media.

Islamabad High Court rejects US blogger’s petition to stop Federal Investigation Agency probe
Date: June 23, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: Dawn, Source 3: South Asia Monitor
The Islamabad High Court rejected US blogger Cynthia Richie’s plea to stop the Federal Investigation Agency from taking action against her.

Rehman Malik serves another defamation notice on Cynthia Ritchie
Date: June 24, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Daily Times
Pakistan People’s Party leader Senator Rehman Malik through his lawyers served another defamation notice to US Citizen Cynthia D. Ritchie “over false, frivolous and baseless allegations”.

Weaponizing the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act
Date: June 25, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Acting excessively and unlawfully against Pakistani citizens, especially journalists, is a consistent pattern, beginning as early as 2017 hardly months after the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 was enacted.

Videos of police brutality trigger outrage on social media
Date: June 25, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Disturbing videos of police personnel stripping and torturing an accused inside a police station emerged online and led to a social media uproar over police brutality.

Islamabad High Court calls for explanation about Cynthia Ritchie’s visa status
Date: June 27, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The Islamabad High Court sought an explanation from the Ministry of Interior about the status and terms and conditions of the visa issued to US blogger Cynthia D. Ritchie, asking it to explain if she was entitled to making political statements.

Journalism and textbooks – and religious minorities
Date: June 28, 2020 – Source: The News
Sadly, in Pakistani media – be it electronic, print or social – minorities are neglected, or rather face an aggressive attitude from the majority.

Police move to get online game banned after teen’s suicide
Date: June 28, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The Capital City Police Officer in Islamabad has recommended a ban on an online game to save lives, time and future of millions of teenagers.

Infodemic amidst pandemic
Date: June 29, 2020 – Source: Dawn
As much as these efforts by well-meaning citizens need to be lauded, there is no denying that the decentralization and crowdsourcing of information when it comes to the biggest health crisis of the century is a very risky bet.

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