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. 2 February 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

Lahore High Court takes notice of ‘anti-judiciary’ campaign on social media
Date: February 1, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh had sought reports from relevant ministries to know where Pakistan stood in controlling “the menace of anti-institution campaigns” on social media and to ascertain the status of the country with regard to international conventions on cybercrime.
Cabinet approves new rules to regulate social media
Date: February 13, 2020 – Source 1: The News; Source 2: Pakistan Today
In a bid to regulate social media, the federal cabinet has approved a new set of rules, imposing strict conditions on digital media companies.
Statement: New social media laws not meant to muzzle dissent
Date: February 13, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting Firdaus Ashiq Awan has tried to allay growing concerns over the new proposed social media policy saying  it was aimed at protecting citizens as opponents of the rules feared they might be used to stifle online dissent and free speech.
Government’s new social media policy comes under criticism in Senate
Date: February 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The government’s new social media policy has come under criticism in the Senate, with lawmakers accusing the government of having bypassed the parliament in drafting the rules.
Chief Justice of Pakistan comes out in support of cyber laws
Date: February 16, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn; Source 2: Express Tribune
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has urged the government to work seriously on cyber laws and enhance capacity of law-enforcement agencies to deal with cybercrimes.
Statement: Pakistan has best cyber laws but lacks enforcement expertise
Date: February 16, 2020 – Source: Daily Times
Addressing a seminar on cyber laws in Lahore, Chief Justice Lahore High Court has claimed that Pakistan has the best cyber laws but is lacking enforcement expertise.
Federal Investigation Agency’s efforts in cybercrimes highlighted
Date: February 18, 2020 – Source: The News
Director Cyber Crime Wing Waqar Ahmed Chauhan represented Federal Investigation Agency in a seminar on cyber laws organized by Punjab Judicial Academy Lahore and highlighted the agency’s efforts against combating cybercrimes in the country.
Prime Minister aims to increase scope of ICT industry by $20 billion
Date: February 20, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Under the Digital Policy the government aims to increase the size of Pakistan Information and Communication Technology industry to $20 billion in the next few years.
Joint working group on cybercrimes to be formed soon
Date: February 26, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
To tackle cyber financial crimes in Pakistan, it has been decided by the government to form a joint working group with representatives from the public and private sector along with regulators.
Information technology ministry forms panel to review social media rules
Date: February 29, 2020 – Source: Dawn
While uproar against the new rules to regulate social media continues from various segments of society, including parliamentarians, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and civil society, the information technology ministry has formed a committee to review the rules.
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

A win for digital rights in Pakistan, one step at a time
Date: February 11, 2020 – Source 1: Digital Rights Foundation; Source 2: BoloBhi
Digital Rights Foundation and Bolo Bhi have welcomed the Senate Committee on Human Rights’ decision rejecting the proposed regulation on Web TV and declaring that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority does not have jurisdiction over internet and digital content under its ordinance.
Pakistan government secretly passes strict social media regulations
Date: February 13, 2020 – Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists have demanded that the Government of Pakistan should immediately roll back a set of social media regulatory measures that were passed in secret.
Digital Rights Foundation Condemns Citizen’s Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020
Date: February 13, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation
Digital Rights Foundation has condemned the ‘Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020’ notified by the Ministry of Information Technology. It also raised objections to the rules saying they restrict freedom of expression and privacy of citizens.
Social media regulations will curb political dissent
Date: February 14, 2020 – Source: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed concern that the federal government has approved a set of rules designed to regulate social media platforms. It said such a move – which has been made without consulting civil society stakeholders – has no credible justification.
Digital firms ask government to rethink rules for online regulation
Date: February 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The Asia Internet Coalition has criticized the Pakistan government for releasing its rules on regulating social media without consulting stakeholders and urged the authorities to reconsider its move.
Top legal fraternity express concern over social media regulation
Date: February 15, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn; Source 2: The News
The top bodies representing the legal fraternity has expressed concern over reports that the government is weighing a set of proposals that seek to gag the media and curtail freedom of expression and digital rights of citizens online.
International social media giants write letter to PM against proposed social media rules
Date: February 17, 2020 – Source 1: The News; Source 2: Dawn
The Asia Internet Coalition has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan expressing concern over the sudden announcement of Pakistan’s Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules.
Reporters Without Borders condemns Pakistan’s latest bid to censor social media
Date: February 18, 2020 – Source: Reporters Without Borders
In a new set of regulations, the Pakistani government plans to appoint a “national coordinator” tasked with issuing demands to online platforms to remove offending content. Reporters Without Borders has urged Pakistani authorities to rescind these rules.
A legal analysis of the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020
Date: February 20, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Foundation
The ‘Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020’ have been notified under sections of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996 and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.
Viral videos versus structural discrimination: The digital fight for trans rights in Pakistan
Date: February 21, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy
Trans rights activists often send distress calls on social media and the content sometimes depicts extreme violence against trans individuals.
Statement: Lawyers to stand by journalists in fight for free media
Date: February 22, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn; Source 2: Express Tribune
Speaking at a press conference, veteran lawyer Ahmed Ali Kurd has assured journalists that the lawyers’ fraternity will stand by them in their struggle for a free media in the country.
Lahore High Court takes up social media rules case
Date: February 23, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh will hear an application assailing the legitimacy of new social media regulations published by Ministry of Information, Technology and Telecommunication.
Global Rights Initiative identifies risks to privacy, freedom of expression in social media rules
Date: February 28, 2020 – Source: Dawn
Concerned about the broad scope of the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020, approved by the Pakistan government, the Global Network Initiative has identified aspects of the rules that create significant risks to privacy and freedom of expression
Facebook, Twitter, Google may suspend services in Pakistan after new social media rules
Date: February 29, 2020 – Source 1: Express Tribune; Source 2: The News
The Asia Internet Coalition – which consists of Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter and others ­­- has threatened to suspend services in the country if the laws are not revised.
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

Why Pakistan is not joining global forum on cybercrime
Date: February 1, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The Ministry of Interior has informed the Lahore High Court that Pakistan had not signed so far the Budapest Convention on cybercrime due to reservations shown by intelligence agencies.
Pakistan moves to restrict social media
Date: February 13, 2020 – Source: Voice of America
Pakistan has approved a set of new rules to regulate all social media platforms, a move that critics have denounced as an attack on freedom of the press and free speech in the country.
Pakistan government’s new social media rules draw criticism
Date: February 14, 2020 – Source: Al Jazeera
Pakistan’s government has approved new rules for regulating cyberspace which opponents say could be used to stifle dissent and free speech.
New social media regulations: draconian rules
Date: February 15, 2020 – Source: Dawn
In an exercise which bears all the telltale signs of a clampdown on the freedom of expression, the government has approved a set of rules through which it plans to regulate social media.
No #DigitalPakistan without affordable access to data
Date: February 17, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Although a data-driven economy has caught Pakistan at breakneck speed, the problem remains that the distribution of its benefits is highly uneven – Pakistan is behind. The more impoverished Pakistanis are not even part of the transformation.
Pakistan’s draconian rules on social media take activists by surprise
Date: February 17, 2020 – Source: Global Voices Advox
All major digital rights activists and many social media users in Pakistan have rejected this step and condemned it saying that this is a new attack on freedom of expression, privacy, and digital rights of Pakistanis. The rules were passed secretly in the cabinet and parliamentarians will not be debating it.
Journalists, lawyers, rights bodies to resist move against social media
Date: February 21, 2020 – Source: Dawn
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, lawyers and civil society members have decided to launch a nationwide movement for getting the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules revoked.
Regulation or control? – Food for thought!
Date: February 21, 2020 – Source: The News
After the use of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the government has now introduced new regulations to control social media. The federal cabinet, without a proper public debate, passed the regulations within the existing cybercrime laws to curb digital and social media freedoms.
Pakistan’s new internet laws tighten control over social media
Date: February 22, 2020 – Source: Deutsche Welle
The Pakistani government has passed a new set of laws it says targets “terrorism and fake news” on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Critics say the rules open the door to mass censorship.
Government remains befuddled over how to deal with online harm
Date: February 22, 2020 – Source: Dawn
It has been four years since the draconian Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act was passed, but confusion still reigns in the country over how to deal with harmful content on social media.
Pakistan’s assault on digital rights
Date: February 25, 2020 – Source: The Diplomat
Pakistan’s new social media rules boast regulations and punishments for offenses including spamming, spoofing, harassment, cyber terrorism, and censorship, as well as guidelines relating to the holding and releasing of data. Many of these concerns are valid.
Wrong direction for a shiny digital future for Pakistan
Date: February 27, 2020 – Source: Arab News
In its disguised aim to restrict freedom of expression, the government is not only hurting privacy and digital rights of Pakistani netizens, it is also ending up hurting the digital economy.
Pakistan rethinks social media laws
Date: February 29, 2020 – Source: Gulf News
Pakistan’s government has appointed a committee to review the country’s new social media regulations. The panel has been tasked to hold consultations with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies to regulate online content without violating personal freedoms.
Slammed by global technology giants, Pakistan to revisit internet censorship rules
Date: February 29, 2020 – Source: Arab News
Pakistan’s government will review its sweeping rules on Internet censorship after the unveiling led to an uproar from global Internet companies and criticism from local civil libertarians that the regulations violated freedom of speech.
SECTION 4: Digitalization in Pakistan

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

Digital economy: the way out
Date: February 3, 2020 – Source: The News
The power to connect people to mobile internet cannot be overstated. In a country where conventional channels of public service have failed the people, and will likely require several years to mature, a smarter approach would be to bypass them altogether – to the extent they can be bypassed.
Amid unemployment, more Pakistanis begin online freelancing
Date: February 12, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
More Pakistanis have joined full-time freelance jobs, especially in global information technology setups, in recent times when economic slowdown has rendered a significant number of people jobless in the country.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ‘Digital Transformation Logo’ launched
Date: February 13, 2020 – Source 1: The News; Source 2: Dawn
Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has formally launched the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Digital Transformation Logo for the Year 2020 promising revolutionary measures this year for digitalization to ensure efficient delivery of services and transparency.
Digital transformation for Federal Bureau of Revenue transparency
Date: February 22, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune
Good governance is impossible without adequate state capacity to collect revenues. Digital technologies can enhance the Federal Bureau of Revenue’s capacity if its leadership focuses on broader accountability systems around technological deployment and structural changes.
Digitalization to boost Pakistan’s economy
Date: February 23, 2020 – Source: The Nation
The present Government has outstretched its campaign with new slogan under the banner of Digital Pakistan in Strategic Reform Utility. The aim is to introduce the system of paperless governance and establishment of digital payment gateway in Pakistan.
Digitalizing Pakistan
Date: February 25, 2020 – Source: The News
The government’s vision for a Digital Pakistan is no doubt extensive – encompassing infrastructure, e-governance, fin-tech, digital skills and training, and innovation and entrepreneurship.
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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