DIGITAL PAKISTAN MONITOR – August 2023 – 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. 8  August 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

Internet firms in Pakistan hike cost of packages by 10-15pc

Date: August 26, 2023 – Source: The News

Owing to inflationary pressure and appreciating value of the United States dollar, internet service providers in Pakistan announced an increase in the charges of internet packages by 10 to 15 per cent.

Free Wi-Fi service project inaugurated in Rohri

Date: August 27, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

District Council Sukkur launched a free Wi-Fi service in Rohri. The pilot project was launched to help students in terms of providing them with quality education and access to the internet. 

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

Parliament urged to reconsider anti-press freedom bills

Date: August 5, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged legislators to reject or revise proposed draft bills that were likely to undermine press freedom for legacy and digital media and consult journalists and other stakeholders in a transparent review process before putting bills to a vote.

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

Muzzling Pakistan’s digital media

Date: August 6, 2023 – Source: The News

While concerns regarding disinformation, accountability of big technology platforms and keeping private data safe are legitimate, the state needs to recognize questions of technology and their impact on society are complicated and ever-evolving. They require deliberation and rare punitive interventions.

Rehashing GDPR

Date: August 7, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The ethical implications of data exploitation aside, the implications of data protection should also be considered before a legislation proposal, which does not address the concerns of data collection, storage and processing by companies, becomes an act of parliament. 

Restricting the internet in Pakistan

Date: August 7, 2023 – Source: The News

Access to the internet is particularly vulnerable to government imposed restrictions during times of political turbulence and instability or if there is the threat of large-scale violence and public disorder in Pakistan. 

Nannying the internet

Date: August 8, 2023 – Source: The News

Two new cybersecurity laws – Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 and the E-Safety Bill 2023 – approved by the federal government have elicited loud protest from digital rights activists and global technology companies. They remain concerned that these laws will undermine privacy and freedom of speech. 

Asia internet body voices concerns over new bills

Date: August 8, 2023 – Source: Express Tribune

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a multinational industry body, raised concerns over the tabling of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 and E-Safety Bill 2023 and said that global companies were re-evaluating their willingness to operate in Pakistan. 

Election Commission of Pakistan code bars media from entry, exit polls

Date: August 15, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: The Pakistan Daily

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) placed a complete ban on exit and entrance polls including those on official digital media accounts of print and electronic media outlets as well as social media influencers. 

KP government bars employees from posting information about its affairs on social media

Date: August 16, 2023 – Source 1: Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), Source 2: Dawn

Reminding its employees about restrictions on their online freedom, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government stopped them from sharing information about its matters on social media platforms. 

SECP removes 120 illegal loan applications from Google, Apple stores

Date: August 17, 2023 – Source 1: The News, Source 2: The Nation, Source 3: Arab News

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) said it had removed 120 illegal personal loan applications from Google and Apple stores to safeguard people from falling into ‘debt traps’. 

RSF urges government to rethink Pakistan’s new E-Safety Authority bill

Date: August 17, 2023 – Source 1: Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Source 2: Dawn

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Pakistan government to repeal –‘’several draconian laws supposedly designed to combat ‘disinformation’, ‘cybercrimes’ and ‘spying’ that it forced through parliament shortly before its dissolution’’. 

Islamabad police targets over 700 social media accounts in ‘anti-hate campaign’

Date: August 22, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

The Violent Extremism Prevention Unit (VEPN) under the Islamabad Police identified over 700 social media accounts disseminating religious and terrorism-related material in an initiative to curb online hate and extremist content. 

Government employees barred from replying on WhatsApp after hacking attempts

Date: August 26, 2023 – Source: Dawn

The federal government warned its employees against replying to unidentified WhatsApp messages after security agencies identified malware to gain access to important government documents. 

‘Malicious’ social media campaign against Islamabad High Court judge denounced

Date: August 28, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Pakistan Today

The Federal Ministry of Law and Justice condemned the ‘social media campaign’ against Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and constituted a Special Joint Investigation Team (SJIT) to investigate the matter. 

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 exports surge to $2.6 billion

Date: August 2, 2023 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Syed Amin-ul-Haq announced that Pakistan’s information technology (IT) exports increased to over $2.6 billion from an earlier level of $1 billion recorded in 2020. 

YouTube announces premium and music services for Pakistani users

Date: August 3, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune, Source 3: Arab News

YouTube introduced its premium and music services to users in Pakistan, allowing them to watch videos uninterrupted by advertisements, while using other applications or when the screen is locked; download videos for offline play; and listen to music without interruptions. 

Social media’s surge reshaping journalism landscape in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Date: August 3, 2023 – Source: Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Social media’s rapid rise has had a profound impact on the journalism landscape in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have transformed ordinary people equipped with smartphones and real-time connectivity into citizen journalists.

The rise of Baloch women vloggers

Date: August 6, 2023 – Source: Dawn

In Pakistan’s conservative Baloch society, the idea of women placing themselves in the public eye is sometimes unthinkable. However, more and more young vloggers from the society are asserting themselves on social media and changing mores in the process. 

Government launches pilot application to replace WhatsApp 

Date: August 8, 2023 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Business Recorder (BR), Source 3: Arab News

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq launched the pilot of Pakistan’s first-ever instant communication application ‘Beep Pakistan’. The application would be available to the general public in 2024. 

TeleNest opens new operation center in Pakistan

Date: August 27, 2023 – Source: The News

TeleNest, a teleport license holder from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), unveiled its new operation center in Islamabad. It stands as Pakistan’s sole satellite teleport for broadcasters, offering services for television channels, OTT providers, and media monitors. 


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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