Internet freedom is one of the basic rights of citizens and digital rights, freedom of information, the right to Internet access, freedom from Internet censorship, and net neutrality being its fundamental components. While it is considered as one of the vital aspects throughout the world, it is sometimes arbitrated in Pakistan. During the year 2020, Internet freedom sharply declined in Pakistan due to the blocking of political, social, and cultural websites by the government over different issues. As reported by Dawn, this insight is received from the “Annual Pakistan media legal review 2020” report launched by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) to the World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3.
The report titled “Growing fear and hate in Pakistani online civic spaces”, showcased how digital rights are compromised in Pakistan.
“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,”
Internet freedom has declined in Pakistan since 2020
Since Pakistan experienced a major setback in the implementation of digital rights during this year, the freedom of expression and right to information were imperiled in online spaces.
“This is resulting in a rise in censorship, hate speech, digital surveillance and breach of privacy and disinformation and misinformation online
The government has remained aggressive during 2020 and has expanded its authority over the media sector, regulating it accordingly and designating the boundaries of free speech of media and information practitioners, including journalists and online citizens.
“13 incidents of actions under Peca against journalists or human rights activists have been reported during the year.”
Online spaces in Pakistan should remain diverse and inclusive and for this government needs to revoke the coercive policies and hostile practices, only then we would be able to attract social media giants to start their operations in Pakistan.