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Freedom of expression: Internet watchdog in Pakistan, 'this has been a year of aggressive sanctions'


One year ago, in October last year, the Pakistani government enlisted the help of Sandwin, a controversial Canadian company, to monitor and review information transmitted across the country via the Internet.

Under the کروڑ 18 million agreement, the Internet monitoring system will use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), which means information ranging from Internet monitoring to a user's personal call data. 

Last year, the news was published on a website called Koda Story in New York, which raised concerns and raised questions about the extent to which Internet users are being monitored in Pakistan and through it. What will happen to those who criticize the government?

Fareeha Aziz, co-founder of Bolo Bhi, a digital rights organization, says the surveillance system is like listening to a conversation between two people, or sent by someone. Open the letter and read.

The above incident is part of all the restrictions that have been imposed on those who speak or work online this year and which are also part of the report released today by the organization working on digital rights.

This year, FIRs were also filed against commentators, social networking apps were alerted or blocked, and laws were used that social workers had previously warned that They are against the basic rights of the people.

Now, on International Internet Day, a report published by the Freedom Network, an organization working on freedom of expression, is also presenting a very bleak picture.

The annual report on digital rights is based on the rules and regulations for the prevention and strict monitoring of information on the Internet, hate speech on social networking sites and freedom of expression. And the progress made in this regard has been included in the report.

According to the report, aggressive measures were taken by the federal government, which not only restricted the media but also banned the expression of speakers on social networking sites and other platforms. While video bloggers and tickers are subject to these laws, social workers, politicians, journalists and lawyers could not escape them.

In 2020, Pakistan was ranked 38th out of 100 in the Freedom of the World's Freedom of Expression List. The report described Pakistan as "partially independent".

If we look at some of the events that will take place in 2020 now, it would not be out of place to say that there is only an increase in online hardships.

In July of this year, the first tick-tack video app was issued in a row, while another app, Bego Live, was shut down. This month, Tik Tak was shut down again for failing to heed the warning.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) banned the ban on the basis of "immoral and indecent content". But ten days later, the app was conditionally reopened.

It should be noted that according to PTA's own statistics, as of July this year, there are about 20 million tick talk users in Pakistan.

Iqbal Khattak, executive director of the Freedom Network, said in the report that "it is unfortunate that this has significantly affected journalism limited to the Internet, while freedom of expression has largely been transformed into language."

Tik Tak, Pakistan,

, Image source GETTY IMAGES

Journalist and Pika Law

According to the Freedom Network, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) was used indiscriminately against journalists and columnists. So that journalists and columnists active on social networking sites can be bound by a particular point of view. 

"We've seen a lot of activity in the last two months," Fareeha said. On the one hand, Section 37 of the PKK was used to stop journalists. Then there are the concerns we raised earlier this year about the same law. Another draft of the same law has been prepared under different names. And whatever the circumstances, it looks like it will be approved. "

The federal cabinet issued new rules a month ago to curb online content. A PKK-style law, Citizens Protection Against Online Harm Rules 2020, was blocked as a result of timely social and human rights activists raising their voices.

"You have removed one journalist after another from the prime time show," says Fareeha. So now they have social media or YouTube as the only way to express themselves. But it is also being restricted and tightened so that nothing special can happen.

So is September... According to a report in Khar, the names of 49 journalists, including columnist Ammar Masood and journalist Aizaz Syed, were included in a list allegedly prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). While the FIA denied the news, there was a lot of noise from journalists and other activists.

Speaking to the BBC, columnist Ammar Masood said: "We have been told very clearly not to talk. During a press briefing, red circles were drawn around the photos of several journalists as they were harassing institutions through their freedom of expression. As a result, well-known journalists are now confined to homes and online, while those who follow their narratives are thriving.

On the one hand, regarding the FIRs that are being registered, Fareeha Uzair says that Pakistan Penalties are also being included in them so that defamation provisions can also be included during the trial.

Freedom Network reports that Pakistani authorities have severely curtailed internet freedom this year, while issuing warnings to journalists and social activists over posts posted on Twitter or Facebook, as well as politically motivated. 


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