A REPORT indicating that digital media freedom remained low in Pakistan in 2020-2021 should come as no surprise. The report entitled Regulatory Repressions Amid Pandemic: State of Digital Media Freedoms in Pakistan 2021, published by the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development, documents how Pakistan has fallen with lower points this year than the previous one and highlights a series of reasons for this decrease. freedoms. Although internet access has increased slightly, the report found that the online freedom of journalists and citizens remains under serious threat. This is largely because the government has enforced draconian rules to regulate and monitor digital content through a centralized regulator. It captures how members of the media are constantly abused and harassed in coordinated campaigns to slander and discredit them. Members of the public have also been bombarded with “alarming levels” of disinformation. The PTI has a catastrophic record when it comes to digital freedoms. Prominent party members and even their digital teams are regularly called upon to troll and intimidate journalists and online activists. Moreover, its growing authority to regulate the Internet speaks volumes about its paranoia regarding unhindered access of citizens to the Internet. It shows how much the government wants control and has all the telltale signs of an administration hungry for surveillance. Reflecting this trend, Pemra recently issued an absurd notice banning romantic scenes in TV dramas – another reminder of a state obsessed with police behavior. The permanent ban on the video-sharing platform TikTok is also a testament to the state’s penchant for moral policing, as the PTA frequently calls the platform’s content “immoral and against cultural values.”
This report is important because not only does it highlight dangerous threats to digital media freedom, but it also calls for a progressive, secure and supportive environment for Internet users. The PTI government has gained a negative reputation for being phobic and tyrannical about digital media freedoms. Rights groups, activists and even the Asia Internet Coalition have repeatedly called on the government to obstruct citizens’ free access to the Internet and cut Pakistan’s digital economy off from the rest of the world. Instead of being afraid and in control of technology, the government must view digital media as an incredible opportunity for a large population of young people. Improving Internet penetration and access and encouraging people to express themselves on the Internet will be beneficial, both for citizens and for democratic government.
Posted in Dawn, October 30, 2021