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. 9 September 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

Body formed to auction spectrum as internet demand surges in Pakistan

Date: September 10, 2020 – Source: The News

The government constituted an advisory committee to auction more radio frequencies to mobile phone operators to let them offer fast speed internet and expand penetration in the country.

Senate panel discusses internet facility in far-flung areas

Date: September 13, 2020 – Source: The News

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication discussed the provision of internet facility to far-flung areas of Balochistan.

Internet use, connectivity rose 25pc during pandemic-induced lockdowns

Date: September 13, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Recent lockdowns and the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the need for reliance on data and internet use, which had increased by 25 per cent whereas the revenues from the voice traffic declined by around 10pc.  More submarine cable companies are expected to soon enter the Pakistani internet market.

Draft rules readied for mobile device manufacturing in Pakistan

Date: September 16, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Auth­ority floated the draft ‘Mobile Device Manufacturing Regulations and Authorization’ to promote manufacturing of handsets in the country.

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

Media Matters for Democracy expresses solidarity with women journalists against online violence

Date: September 8, 2020 – Source: Media Matters for Democracy

Media Matters for Democracy stands in solidarity with women journalists who have released a statement highlighting the prevailing trend of continued digital violence from supporters of all political parties and different public and state institutions.

United Nations decries attacks on journalists and activists in Pakistan

Date: September 9, 2020 – Source 1: Dawn, Source 2: Express Tribune

The United Nations voiced alarm on Tuesday at growing attacks on journalists and activists in Pakistan, often amid cries of blasphemy, urging Islamabad to protect those facing threats and probe any violence.

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

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority bans Tinder, four other online dating sites

Date: September 2, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked five dating and live streaming applications including the popular Tinder app citing “immoral content”.

US blogger Cynthia Ritchie asked to leave Pakistan

Date: September 3, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The interior ministry on Wednesday declined to extend the visa of Cynthia Dawn Ritchie, a controversial US blogger residing in Pakistan for over a decade, and asked her to leave the country within 15 days.

Grindr disappointed by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block its services

Date: September 4, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Dating application Grindr said it was deeply disappointed by Pakistan’s decision this week to block it and four other such applications after they were deemed to be disseminating “immoral content”.

Hate speech: Punjab blocks over 4,000 websites

Date: September 7, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Punjab government claims to have identified and blocked over 4,000 websites and taken action against their operators on charges of igniting sectarianism and hate.

US blogger’s deportation from Pakistan stayed

Date: September 8, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Islamabad High Court issued a stay order against the ‘deportation’ of the US blogger Cynthia D Ritchie and sought report from the interior ministry.

Petition filed against social media attacks on women journalists

Date: September 9, 2020 – Source: Dawn

A public petition has been filed by a large number of media persons against social media attacks on women journalists by those affiliated with the government, political parties, their supporters and social media wings, impacting their work, mental well-being and security.

Cyberattack disrupts Karachi Electric’s non-critical services

Date: September 10, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Karachi’s premier electricity supplier, K-Electric, was compelled temporarily suspend its non-critical services to end consumers due to a cyberattack.

New law seeks to enhance state powers on digital surveillance

Date: September 13, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government has proposed an amendment in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), which will give increased spying powers to the investigators if the bill is approved.

Toeing the line in the digital sphere

Date: September 13, 2020 – Source: Dawn

Social media was celebrated as an equalizing force that strengthened democracy and empowered citizens, especially from marginalized groups, to have a voice. However, state institutions have also started operating on social media employing various methods to disseminate information.

Policing online forums

Date: September 14, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The authorities that govern the use of technology in Pakistan seem to be on a moral crusade of late. Regulation of online content is becoming increasingly draconian under the sanction of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016.

President urges cyber security for citizens, institutions’ data

Date: September 17, 2020 – Source: The News

President Dr Arif Alvi said considering the growing risks of cyber-attacks, it was a must to secure the cyber space for protection and security of online data of citizens, businesses and public institutions.

Social media freedom for socioeconomic prosperity

Date: September 17, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Social networking is creating countless opportunities for creative expression and sharing valuable ideas for positive inspiration and to influence people. Progressive nations have allowed social media freedom and optimized the role of such applications to achieve socioeconomic prosperity.

SECP Policy Board concerned over delay in report of theft of data

Date: September 19, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The SECP Policy Board expressed concern over the delay in submission of the fact-finding committee’s report on the theft of sensitive information from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

Vile social media attacks target Pakistani women journalists

Date: September 18, 2020 – Source: The Washington Post

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned relentless social media attacks on women journalists in Pakistan — vicious assaults that have threatened rape and even death.

TikTok sets up council to allay concerns over content control

Date: September 24, 2020 – Source: Digital Rights Monitor

Amid concerns in Pakistan and some other Asian countries over lack of content regulations at its platform, TikTok has established a regional Safety Advisory Council to advise its management on content moderation policies and safety issues specific to Asia Pacific.

Prime Minister wants obscenity culled, TitkTok and others applications banned

Date: September 26, 2020 – Source: Arab News

Prime Minister Imran Khan is extremely concerned about the ‘growing obscenity and vulgarity’ in society and has directed all relevant sections to ban applications such as TikTok to save ‘socio-religious’ values in the country.

PFUJ concerned over fictitious cases against 49 journalists, social media activists

Date: September 26, 2020 – Source: The News

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has shown serious concern and expressed anger over fictitious, fabricated and concocted cases against 49 journalists and social media activists on frivolous charges under Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA) by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan data leak suspect moves court

Date: September 26, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

One of the officials of the Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) accused of leaking official data has moved the Islamabad High Court challenging the formation of an inquiry committee to probe into the matter.

Minister says no cases registered against 49 journalists, social media activists

Date: September 26, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari dismissed claims of cases being registered against 49 journalists and social media activists in the country by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan stopped from acting against ‘data leak suspect’

Date: September 27, 2020 – Source: Dawn

The Islam­abad High Court restrained the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) from proceeding against one of its additional directors in a matter pertaining to the leak of data related to the family business of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information.

SECTION 4: Digitalization

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

Pakistani start-up secures $1m seed funding to expand online operations

Date: September 5, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

A local grocery start-up, GrocerApp, has managed to raise $1 million as seed funding from a Dubai-based group to further streamline its online operations for the Pakistani market.

Open door policy makes police social media accounts popular in Islamabad

Date: September 5, 2020 – Source: The News

Social media has become important tool to highlight the performance of Islamabad police and its twitter account as well as official page are being visited by more than 3,00,000 people to know about achievements of the force on daily basis.

Rupee depreciation: a boon for information technology exports

Date: September 6, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Rupee depreciation against the US dollar coupled with the widely adopted work-from-home culture during the lockdown period in Pakistan has benefited exports of information technology (IT) from the country.

Karachi-based startup offers ace digital marketing tools

Date: September 6, 2020 – Source: The News, a Pakistan startup operating out of Karachi, offers entrepreneurs and businesses digital marketing tools to ace their e-commerce plans.

Eight challenges in the Pakistani digital journey

Date: September 6, 2020 – Source: The News

The need for taking the next step in the digital reformation of Pakistan cannot be stressed enough. Modern techniques of employing big data management, artificial intelligence, and effective human-computer interaction will be the key areas that will help accelerate the process of e-governance.

Digitization of Halal food industry urged by Federal Minister

Date: September 10, 2020 – Source: The News

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the Halal food industry would be promoted with help of technology, as a Halal Food Authority would be established.

Economic managers demand tax relief for telecommunication sector

Date: September 10, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Economic managers of the country have suggested that tax relief model of Bangladesh should be followed in a bid to promote the telecom sector and turn it into an export-focused industry.

Economic Coordination Committee expected to approve new spectrum strategy

Date: September 16, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The Economic Coordination Committee is expected to approve the Rolling Spectrum Strategy 2020-23 for a faster network speed soon.

Emergency service application enters reliable care field in Pakistan

Date: September 16, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan’s emergency mobile service application Mohafiz is expanding its footprint and entering the field of reliable care assistance – a first-of-its-kind service among private sector startups in the country.

Merger on the cards in telecommunication sector

Date: September 18, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The long-expected merger or acquisition in Pakistan’s cellular mobile services sector may finally materialize as Ufone’s parent company has sought proposals for advisory role for possible amalgamation or merger with another telecom operator.

Continuation of online education advocated by parents

Date: September 19, 2020 – Source: The News

As poor adherence to prevention standard operating procedures against novel coronavirus has been reported in educational institutions since their reopening, voices are growing in support of the continued online learning of children from preschool to middle standards, for the sake of their health.

Pakistan’s first digital secretariat to be set up soon

Date: September 20, 2020 – Source: The News

The country’s first paperless secretariat, South Punjab Administrative Secretariat (SPAS) is expected to be fully operational soon, replacing the traditional paper communication with digital technology.

Digitization to help economy recover

Date: September 22, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

Pakistan should embrace digital changes that are crucial for long-term development of every sort of business as the second wave of novel coronavirus presents further difficulties for traditional business operations.

Pakistan, China to ink MoU for Information Technology promotion

Date: September 25, 2020 – Source: Express Tribune

The government has given the go-ahead to the Information Technology and Telecommunication Division that is going to sign a strategic cooperation framework with the Chinese IT ministry for the promotion and advancement of information and communication technology (ICT).

Government kicks off project to promote international digital payments

Date: September 25, 2020 – Source: The News

The government kicked off a project to collaborate between the country’s largest transactional clearing facilitator and a cross-border payment service provider to promote international digital payments.

Shopping online: The rise of digital payments

Date: September 27, 2020 – Source: Dawn

E-commerce in Pakistan has seen a steady rise, but many still distrust digital payments and online market places, preferring sticking to in-person transactions. However, Covid-19 has forced customers and businesses to give online shopping and payment solutions a chance.

Punjab launches digital application to boost tourism

Date: September 28, 2020 – Source: The Rumorist

In order to provide travel assistance to the potential tourists as well as information on various culturally relevant sites within the province, Punjab has introduced a new ‘tourism app’ based on Android platform.


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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