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...

New Report: How Pakistan blocked news outlets, social media sites, and IM apps amidst protests

Posted on Nov 29, 2017

Islamabad, November 29, 2017: Last weekend, a number of social media sites and news outlets were blocked in Pakistan during Islamist protests . Protesters gathered in Islamabad alleged that Mr. Zahid Hamid, the Federal Law Minister, should be removed from his position because he omitted a reference to the Prophet Muhammad in a parliamentary bill. On Saturday, 25th November 2017, law enforcement agencies initiated an operation to disperse the sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange linking Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

As information about the government operation was reported by the media, protests spread across the country, literally jamming roads and closing businesses. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) prohibited live coverage of the operation at Faizabad, leading to governmental blocking of social media sites and online news channels.

In this post...

Pakistan: Blocking information channels can never be a solution, it is always a problem!

Posted on Nov 25, 2017

Islamabad, November 25, 2017: Bytes for All, Pakistan (B4A) is extremely concerned over the complete information blackout in the country and demands the government to immediately restore unfettered access to internet, social media platforms, media channels and mobile services, where network shutdown is being imposed.

Earlier today, in an unprecedented censorship move, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued directives intimating news channels to stop live coverage of ongoing security operation against a religious group’s sit-in at Faizabad, Rawalpindi citing Section 8(8) of Electronic Media Code of Conduct. According to the PEMRA code, live coverage of any security operation is prohibited unless warranted by the security agency in-charge of the operation.

As per reports, immediately after issuance of the directives, PEMRA started shutting down...

Internet Censorship in Pakistan: Findings from 2014-2017

Posted on Oct 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD/ROME, (October 18, 2017): Bytes for All, Pakistan (B4A) and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) project released a research report examining internet censorship in Pakistan. The report, titled “Internet Censorship in Pakistan: Findings from 2014 to 2017” is available Here . This study was conducted through the collection and analysis of network measurements from 22 ISPs in Pakistan over the last three years. OONI Probe, which is free software designed to measure internet censorship, was used as part of this study. All network measurement data collected through the use of OONI Probe is published Here . Upon analysis of the data, we confirm the blocking of 210 URLs in Pakistan . Explicit blockpages were observed for many of these URLs, while others were blocked by means of DNS tampering. Blocked websites include: