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From Our Member Bytes for All, Pakistan – 2017 Annual Report on ‘Internet Landscape Of Pakistan’

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FORUM-ASIA member Bytes for All, Pakistan published their annual report titled “Internet Landscape of Pakistan”. The report focuses on emerging threats like arbitrary administrative shutdowns, misplaced judicial activism against Internet freedoms, rise of cyber armies, enforced disappearances of activists and abuse of cyber-crime laws.

Internet Landscape of Pakistan is an indigenous effort to regularly monitor and document the ongoing trends and challenges that impact digital and human
rights in the country. This is the third edition in the series.

The dawn of 2017 brought many significant challenges and troubling trends in the existing internet landscape of Pakistan, where we saw blatant infringements on the fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression, access to information, peaceful assembly and of association, and the right to privacy.

As anticipated, terrible consequences emerged with the enactment of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. Several bloggers were abducted by the ghost perpetrators and many social media activists and journalists have been summoned by the investigation agencies for their online expression. This trend has cultivated an environment of fear, self-censorship and further strengthened the culture of impunity.

Over the course of last one-year, the increased access to the internet has also resulted in increased threshold of online crimes against social media users and political activists with dissenting voices. These include both the State and non-State actors’ patronized crimes. Five bloggers and activists went missing in January 2017, and to date no one know about the real perpetrators. However, the bloggers after their release accused the State agencies’ involvement behind their abduction.

Cyber armies hired and organized by different State and non-State actors is another phenomenon, which is being used as an effective tool to stifle expression and distort progressive narratives in online spaces. These cyber armies are involved hurling offline threats as well, especially targeting minorities and effectively suppressing political expression.

(excerpt from the preface of the report)


For a PDF version of this report, click here.