Reflections on the Pakistan Ruling Banning Network Shutdowns

Posted on Apr 18, 2018

In late February 2018, in a landmark judgment, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled that shutting down telecom networks was illegal, rejecting the State’s rationale that security considerations made such shutdowns necessary.

Pakistan has a history of network shutdowns during public gatherings and events. The court termed the shutdowns as ‘illegal’ and ‘inconsistent’ with legal provisions.

For some years now, the prevailing practice in Pakistan has been that citing apprehensions of unforeseen security circumstances, including potential terrorist attacks. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the country’s telecom regulator, has suspended mobile networks in major cities. In some cases these suspensions have lasted for prolonged durations. The shutdowns are often unannounced.

In 2016, with the help of four citizens, advocate Umer Gillani launched and...

Right to privacy in the digital age

Posted on Apr 16, 2018

A joint civil society response to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights call for input to a report on the right to privacy in the digital age. This response has been jointly drafted by the civil society organisations listed in alphabetical order at the bottom of the submission.

New report: Journos and HRDs increasingly self-censor due to rampant surveillance

Posted on Mar 21, 2018

Islamabad, (March 21, 2018): Mass Surveillance on digital communications of journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) is resulting in self-censorship in Pakistan, reveals Bytes for All, Pakistan’s new research titled, ‘ Dangers of Digital Surveillance ’.

The report, based on the data collected through a survey and case studies, presents an in-depth alarming account of trends and threats forcing journalists and HRDs to self-censor in carrying out their work. Where digital surveillance reveals the identity of journos and HRDs working on sensitive cases, it also reveals the identity of sources and whistleblowers, whose life and well-being can be under severe threat due to this disclosure.

The report maintains that over 50% of journalists consider digital surveillance as a reason of intimidation for them and credible life threats to their sources....

Oral Statement at the 37th Session of Human Rights Council for adoption of Pakistan’s UPR Outcome Report

Posted on Mar 19, 2018

Mr President, FORUM-ASIA makes this statement in solidarity with Bytes for All Pakistan. We note that Pakistan has accepted 168 out of 289 recommendations.

While we appreciate that a recommendation to intensify efforts at safeguarding freedom of expression [1] was accepted, we regret that a recommendation to protect online freedom was merely noted. [2]

Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act of 2016 empowers telecommunication regulators to arbitrarily filter or censor ‘objectionable content’, which has restricted online expression, including for religious, sexual, or ethnic minorities. Laws have also been misused to target alleged blasphemers and to block any criticism of the state.

The law provides sweeping powers for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority...

Verdict: Islamabad High Court declares network disconnections as illegal

Posted on Feb 26, 2018

ISLAMABAD, (February 26, 2018): Bytes for All, Pakistan welcomes the decision by Honorable Judge of Islamabad High Court, Justice Athar Minallah whereby he declared the network shutdown as illegal and disproportionate response to security threats.

The judgement reads as, “For what has been discussed above, the instant appeal and the connected petitions are allowed. Consequently, the actions, orders and directives issued by the Federal Government or the Authority, as the case may be, which are inconsistent with the provisions of section 54(3) are declared as illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority and jurisdiction. The Federal Government or the Authority are, therefore, not vested with the power and jurisdiction to suspend or cause the suspension of mobile cellular services or operations on the ground of national security except as provided under...

New Report: Make data protection a priority to safeguard citizens in cyberspace

Posted on Jan 29, 2018

Islamabad, (January 29, 2018): The growing privacy concerns about the misuse of personal and private data of citizens and grey areas in the legal framework call for the need of enacting a pro-rights data protection law and setting up an independent authority, overseeing data protection compliances.

Based on the findings from the Bytes for All, Pakistan’s new research study titled “ Electronic Data Protection in Pakistan ” presents a comprehensive overview of the existing legal framework pertaining to right to privacy both online and offline, a critique on Electronic Data Protection Bill (EDPB) 2005, global best practices vis-a-vis data protection and the case study of Pakistan.

The study also points out the loopholes and grey areas in the existing laws including EDPB and suggests that the draft bill if implemented in its current form would fail to...

New Report: Cyber armies, judicial activism and enforced disappearances - emerging threats for Internet freedoms in Pakistan

Posted on Dec 20, 2017

ISLAMABAD, (December 20, 2017): Bytes for All, Pakistan is highly concerned over the emerging threats to the Internet landscape in the country. The emerging threats range from arbitrary administrative shutdowns, misplaced judicial activism against Internet freedoms, rise of cyber armies, enforced disappearances of activists and abuse of cyber-crime laws.

These findings have emerged out of Bytes for All’s yearly publication known as “ Internet Landscape of Pakistan ”. This year’s publication is based on the indicators that are developed after careful customization of the framework on freedom of expression given by Mr. Frank La Rue, former UN Special Rapporteur on expression and opinion.

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...