"Troubling" state of cyberspace in Pakistan, finds new report
Aug.10, Islamabad: Bytes for All, Pakistan, a local human rights organization, has raised concern over the declining state of fundamental rights in online spaces highlighting the government's strategy of fighting terrorism by infringing upon civil liberties. Bytes for All's 2016 edition of its Internet Landscape of Pakistan series, documents and analyses the state of cyberspace in the country as 'troubling'.
According to the report, while access and speed of the Internet has improved, [cyberspace in] Pakistan still remains far behind the rest of the world. Increased access has also come with increased state control over the internet in the form of continuing censorship, greater monitoring of online activity and legislation open to interpretation, trampling on the basic rights of citizens while meting out harsh punishments.
Jahanzaib Haque, Chief Digital Strategist/Editor Dawn.com and author of the report, says, "Numerous positive developments that have been actualized in the online space are negated by the laws and policies being set in place. By this time next year, the progress that has been achieved will likely have regressed, with citizens and the very individuals who signed off on such policies left vulnerable to the abuse of power being granted in regulation of the Internet."
According to Shahzad Ahmad, Country Director at Bytes for All, Pakistan, "This report presents a big picture in terms of Internet in Pakistan, outlining the progress, and the factors that impede it. In this regard, this is a timely report, because among other issues, it stresses that the PECB, a damaging law for the cyberspace and civil liberties, is on the verge of being made into an act. If passed, the law will unconstitutionally give blanket powers to various government bodies to block or penalize freedom of expression and surveil ordinary citizens without any oversight, all under the guise of counterterrorism."
The said report continues the documentation of the country's internet landscape from a critical, human rights perspective and the document should be read as part historical record and part analysis.
The report also creates ground for issues such as Net Neutrality, and aims to provide reference points for meaningful dialogue with the hope that progressive policies, and more importantly, a progressive mindset emerges to guide Pakistan's online future.
The Oslo Times International News Network/IFEX