October 29th, 2021
The state of digital media freedoms in Pakistan remained weak and vulnerable to regulatory pressures and threats against online expression during 2020-21, this was revealed in a report released by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA).
“Digital media freedoms were threatened in particular by the federal government’s move to enforce controversial and restrictive rules to regulate online content and the information ministry’s proposal to form a centralized media regulatory body that would conduct licensing, registration and content regulation of all types of media, including digital and social media”, the report noted.
The report takes stock of the digital rights situation in Pakistan in 2020-21 by compiling a compendium of research reports published during the year by national and international stakeholders, including regulatory authorities. It was released on the occasion of International Internet Day, which is celebrated worldwide on October 29 every year.
The report also explored the online attacks and targeted harassment of women journalists.” Women journalists were targeted in particular and responded with two joint statements to call out the perpetrators of vicious online attacks against them,” it said.
The report recommended that women journalists should consider formalising their efforts to ensure a united and sustained movement for their rights and safety. It also urged media organisations to make their newsrooms safe and nondiscriminatory places for women journalists.
“Online freedoms remained at risk in Pakistan with the country dropping to 25 points out of 100 in 2021 from 26 points in 2020 in the freedom on the net annual report. A data protection bill being developed by the federal government remained stuck at the draft stage despite receiving recommendations from digital rights groups, the report added.
According to the report, financial ability to access the internet is directly linked to women’s use of the internet and the gender divide is also affected by the region in which women are residing.
“Women users of the internet, including those from vulnerable and marginalised communities continue to assess safety of different online spaces and platforms and continue to make personal decisions about altering their usage to counter those threats”, the report said.