Mon, 17 May 2021

Islamabad [Pakistan] April 29 (ANI): Internet freedom in Pakistan has declined dramatically in 2020 as Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government has increased blocking political, social and cultural websites, as well as increased "weaponisation of the cybercrime law as a tool", according to a report.

The report--'Annual Pakistan media legal review 2020'--was launched by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) to commemorate the upcoming World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Dawn reported.

"The accumulative effect of these outcomes was that the already unfriendly legal framework governing freedom of expression, right to information and digital rights in Pakistan worsened considerably during 2020," according to the report titled "Growing fear and hate in Pakistani online civic spaces."The report said Pakistan was experiencing major setbacks in the enforcement of digital rights, freedom of expression and right to information - especially in online spaces - through regression in the areas of internet policies and regulations.

"This is resulting in a rise in censorship, hate speech, digital surveillance and breach of privacy and disinformation and misinformation online," the report added.

The report noted that the cybercrime law was repeatedly invoked against journalists and opinion makers for exercising freedom of expression and social media activism.

A large number of journalists and social media activists became targets of the draconian Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016, the report said.

Several journalists and rights activists faced inquiries, abductions, investigations and arrests related to their online/social media activities and posts, according to the report.

"Freedom of expression is a guaranteed fundamental right in the shape of Article 19 of the Constitution," IRADA Executive Director Mohammad Aftab Alam said.

"The government needs to roll back its increasingly coercive policy and hostile practices aimed at curbing free speech and bring them in alignment with the best practices of diversity and pluralism in expression and allow online spaces to be representative of the people's opinions and interests," he added. (ANI)

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