Pakistan at par with China, Saudi Arabia on ‘Internet freedom’

Published December 5, 2014
COUNTRIES marked in green are considered ‘free’, those marked in blue are considered ‘not free’, while those in yellow have been designated ‘partially free’ by the Freedom on the Net 2014 report.
COUNTRIES marked in green are considered ‘free’, those marked in blue are considered ‘not free’, while those in yellow have been designated ‘partially free’ by the Freedom on the Net 2014 report.

ISLAMABAD: “Internet freedom around the world is on the decline as more and more countries introduce online censorship and monitoring practices that are more aggressive and more sophisticated in targeting individual users.”

These, the opening lines of ‘Freedom on the Net 2014’ – an annual report by Freedom House, assessing internet user rights in 65 countries – paint a troubling picture of digital rights and their abuse on the global scale.

In this report, the global watchdog gives Pakistan a rank of 69 out of 100, two points down from last year’s score, putting us on par – in terms of online freedoms – with counties such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The report’s Pakistan chapter, researched and compiled by the local internet freedom activists, the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), points out that issues such as radicalization and intolerance, increased state surveillance and large-scale blocking of websites and pages contrary to the government’s stance, are all major problems.


Freedom on the Net 2014 paints a troubling picture of state of Pakistan’s online community


“Pervasive and increased government control on the Internet, whether in form of censorship or with new surveillance tactics, is limiting freedom of expression and amplifying self-censorship among the internet users in Pakistan, said Nighat Dad, who heads DRF.

Sanja Kelly, project director for the Freedom on the Net report and one of its main authors, said in a statement that “authoritarian and democratic leaders alike believe the internet is ripe for regulation… The scramble to legislate comes at the expense of user rights, as lawmakers deliberately or misguidedly neglect privacy protections and judicial oversight .The situation is especially problematic in less democratic states where citizens have no avenues to challenge or appeal government’s actions.”

Madeline Earp, a research analyst for the Freedom on the Net report, said: “We were really concerned to see Pakistan’s [freedom] score decline in 2014. Pakistan scores worse on net freedom than India and Bangladesh, and actually has the lowest ranking of all the Asian countries that we cover, after only Vietnam and China. Globally, it’s in the ‘Not Free’ category for internet freedom, alongside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. For a country that had a democratic election during the period of the report, that indicates an extremely poor performance when it comes to internet access, content, and user rights.”

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2014

Opinion

Editorial

Election time
Updated 27 Jan, 2023

Election time

There are concerns whether the ECP will be sufficiently able to protect the integrity of elections if they are held under partisan governments.
SCO invite
27 Jan, 2023

SCO invite

THOUGH India’s invitation to Pakistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation events in Goa later this ...
Call to arms
27 Jan, 2023

Call to arms

ONE way the state abdicates responsibility in Pakistan is by farming out its functions to the private sector. In ...
Nuclear miscalculations
26 Jan, 2023

Nuclear miscalculations

IF the claim of former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, that Pakistan and India came close to a nuclear exchange...
Exchange rate cap
26 Jan, 2023

Exchange rate cap

THE ‘management’ of the exchange rate by the State Bank, allegedly at the behest of the government, to ward off...
Fawad’s arrest
Updated 26 Jan, 2023

Fawad’s arrest

Does the state really need to fan public discontent in a period as fraught with uncertainty as this?