BY FARAH JAMIL
In this digital age, it has become even easier than before to be stalked, harassed and intruded. During these times of fast digital innovation, it is important for women to assess their risks online, analyze them and browse securely.
With growing privacy concerns on digital spaces, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) sought to increase awareness about privacy issues especially for female journalists and defend the right to privacy by research and reporting the tactics around surveillance.
Digital Rights Foundation marked the launch of their Network of Female Journalists on Online Safety on 12th December. The launch was coupled with a two-day advance training in Bhurban – Murree with 28 female journalists from across Pakistan.
The objective of the network was to empower female journalists to practice and promote online safety within media houses and to raise awareness regarding digital rights issues in mainstream media. Journalists were made aware about reporting on digital rights issues leading to improved quality of reporting when talking about the said rights.
Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, said, “The line between online and offline is blurred making digital rights as important as other rights. Pakistan particularly lacks in recognizing rights of people in online spaces as the awareness around the issues is next to none.”
She added, “By training journalists on reporting on digital rights and prioritizing online safety given the sensitive nature of their work, the network aims at spreading the word beyond the realms of books and articles and into the mainstream media.”
The network will ensure quick and easy access to DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline to journalists and human rights defenders. The helpline is the first of its kind in Pakistan and provides legal advice, digital security support, and psychological counseling to the victims of cyber harassment.
The participants of this training session were all female journalists who belonged to reputable channels and newspapers, bloggers, writers, human rights defenders and students from every part of Pakistan. The participants were informed about difference software and tools through which female journalists can protect their online spaces such as social media accounts and e- mails.
While talking about the role of digital rights foundation – Umaima Tahir – working as journalist in The Nation said, “I have been with DRF since the past two years. This is a great initiative. It will not only connect journalists across Pakistan but also build a strong network on digital security. In case someone has some issues related to digital security they can turn to anyone in the network.
To a question, Umaima answered, “I believe female journalists are more threatened as compared to male journalists. Females should know how to keep their information and data secure while using online space. DRF is doing exceptional work by training ladies to keep themselves secure in the cyber world.
Sabahat Khan – a journalist working in Jahan Pakistan – who mostly covers stories regarding women and children rights, shared her views, “How to protect and minimize harm on our physical safety is something we learned from experience. DRF is doing a great job by making us aware regarding digital threats and online security. Keep up the good work.”
Sabin Agha – a Journalist, Documentary Film Producer & Media Teaching Consultant talked about the importance of digital safety, “For journalists, learning to protect their safety by controlling their digital footprint is crucial. Government’s intelligence agencies and terror networks; they all monitor our work, putting our data at the risk of being hacked. We need to fortify our digital security otherwise it may lead to legal or even deadly consequences us as well as our sources. And as a female journalist, I am well aware how nasty the digital space can be if I am doing a controversial story, especially on politics. Women tended to suffer more on social media.”
She went on to say, “This training equipped me with digital weapons to fight back cyber criminals and their attacks. Specific technical advice was shared on how to encrypt information or to remain anonymous. It also presented different digital tools that I can use to guard my devices.”
Najia Mir – Goodwill ambassador at International Human Rights Commission- IHRC and an anchor at KTN TV also shared her views. “It was an experience that will live long in my memory.Much needed learning opportunity for me, Very interactive and participatory. Liked the way the training was structured along with the refreshing practical exercises.Very well organised and implemented. A lot of lessons learned for me, that I will definitely share in my circle. Certainly all participants would benefit from it”.
To know more about the training session and future plans, we managed to talk Shaukat Ali – Program Manager of Online Safety of Female Journalists.
Shaukat highlighted the motive of this session, “We believe that everyone, regardless of their gender, should be able to work without the fear of getting insulted or threatened. We will keep enlighten the female journalists on the importance of not leaving digital footprints when they are online in future also”.
“We envision a place where all people, and especially women, are able to exercise their right of expression without being threatened”, added Shaukat.