Digital media freedom acts as a contour of a democratic nation. However, according to a recent report, the state of digital media freedom in Pakistan remained fragile during 2020-21. It is because of some regulatory pressures and threats against digital freedom of speech. At the same moment, the netizens were exposed to rising online disinformation, which include fake messages related to Covid-19 origin and treatment, which put their health and safety in danger.
A Report by IRADA Entails that Digital Media Freedom in Pakistan Remains Fragile
The report was entitled ‘Regulatory Repressions Amid Pandemic: State of Digital Media Freedoms in Pakistan 2021’ and it was released by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) on International Internet Day, which is observed on Oct 29.
While Pakistan registered a little improvement in internet accessibility and use amid the global pandemic, the digital freedoms of media workers and internet users were intimidated by the government’s enforcement of controversial rules to regulate online content.
According to the IRADA Executive Director Mohammad Aftab Alam,
We hope that the report will provide relevant stakeholders, including journalists, digital rights advocates, human rights defenders and policymakers, with a consolidated guide to the issues related to digital media freedoms. The report can help them develop strategies to overcome the challenges to digital rights in the country and create a progressive and safe enabling environment for digital media.
The report incorporates 5 areas concerning digital media freedoms. These include access, online freedoms, privacy, legal framework, and judicial actions. The reason for incorporating these areas is to develop a wide-ranging understanding of the impediments faced by journalists and citizens in the effective and ethical use of the internet.
The report further entails that the Pakistani journalists were constantly victimized with abuse, harassment and coordinated campaigns on social media to insult and question their profession during 2020-21. The digital divide had a debilitating effect on women, religious minorities, and other marginalized groups during the pandemic.
The report further said,
Online freedoms remained at risk in Pakistan with the country dropping to 25 points out of 100 in 2021 from 26 points in 2020 in the freedom on the net annual report. A data protection bill being developed by the federal government remained stuck at the draft stage despite receiving recommendations from digital rights groups.