By Sajjad Hussain :
PAKISTAN is among the worst 10 countries in the world for Internet and digital media freedom, according to a report by an Internet watchdog. The Freedom House, an international Internet rights group, on Tuesday released its ‘Freedom on the Net’ (FoTN) report for the year 2019, titled ‘The Crisis of Social Media’, recording an overall decline in global Internet freedom between June 2018 and May 2019. The watchdog in its report placed Pakistan at 26, out of 100 (100 being the worst) — one place down from last year’s ranking, Dawn News quoted the report as saying.
The country scored 5 out of 25 for obstacles to access, 14 out of 35 for limits on content, and 7 out of 40 for violation of user rights index. Globally, Pakistan is among the worst 10 countries in terms of Internet and digital media freedom. In terms of regional ranking, Pakistan emerged as the third worst country after Vietnam and China, the report said. Besides decline in Internet freedom, the report found election manipulation in Pakistan through informational tactics such as the coordinated use of hyper-partisan commentators, bots, or news sites to disseminate false or misleading content as well as technical tactics, including intentional restrictions on connectivity and blocking of websites, it said.
The report for Pakistan was authored by the Digital Rights Foundation. DRF Executive Director Nighat Dad said: “The score this year is the culmination of short-term and regressive policies by successive governments. Years worth of draconian legislation and investment in structures that stymie freedom of expression has led to an environment where the Internet in Pakistan is more unsafe and less inclusive.” Internet penetration registered only marginal increases during the reporting period.
There are 67 million broadband connections in Pakistan, an increase of 10m since the last report. However, it added that government initiatives to provide access to remote areas had progressed in recent years. The report observed that authorities frequently disrupt telecommunication services during protests, elections, and religious and national holidays, often citing security concerns.