KARACHI: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) conducted a nationwide survey on the state of security of journalists to shed light on the threats and concerns journalists face online, which runs parallel to the harassment journalists face offline.
This report, titled “Digital (In)Security of Journalists in Pakistan” seeks to map and understand the digital risks that journalists face in Pakistan and suggests policy interventions based on the data collected.
Report says 66% of the journalists who participated in the survey responded that they had suffered online insecurity.
Journalists face issues of digital security in various ways including blackmail, hacking, threats, sexual harassment, data theft, stalking, and attacks through malware or phishing emails.
The survey was divided in two parts; the ﬁrst part inquired journalists’ understanding of digital security. The second part was only addressed to journalists who had experienced online threats or harassment – 68% of total respondents had faced online threats or harassment, hence proving that the majority is exposed to online insecurity.
The second part of the survey was focused on online harassment and the gendered nature of digital insecurity. 72% of female journalists and 61% of male journalists experienced digital insecurity.
When female journalists were asked how the harassment of female and male journalists differs, 71% reported that female journalists are more likely to be attacked on their appearance. Similarly, 68% of them also believe that female journalists are attacked more than male journalists on their personal lives.
In another question, we asked journalists how online insecurity affected their journalism careers. 45.5% respondents said that online insecurity resulted in self-censorship. The survey learnt that 92% of the respondents believe that online harassment in journalism is either “extremely common” or “common”. Only 8% of respondents believe that online harassment is rare or extremely rare.
This report seeks to posit recommendations to lawmakers with reference to the under-consideration Journalist Protection Bill. The first draft of the Bill did not include provisions for the digital security of journalists, thus the aim of this report is to advocate for lawmakers to also consider that journalists be protected online to keep censorship at bay, and to safeguard their mental health, quality of work, physical security of journalists and freedom of the press.
The report also found a dire need for organizations to realize the nature of this threat and for them to conduct trainings for digital security and privacy. Only 24% of the respondents reported to have received training of digital security and privacy, and a good 76% remain unaware of the possible ways to tackle this issue.
Media organizations fail their employees in another way as 60% of the respondents admitted that their media organization has no policy to report or deal with online threats/harassment. And the 42% of the journalists who filed a complaint were given no follow up.
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s National Response Centre for Cyber Crime (NR3C) has failed to make a substantial change on two counts. While the FIA set up the NR3C almost a decade ago, they have failed to disseminate information about how digital threats and crimes can be reported to them.
Thus, out of all the respondents who face digital insecurity, only 9% reported their cases to the FIA. This number, again, goes to show that the cyber crime wing is hardly being used the way it was meant to be. DRF has submitted recommendations to the NR3C from a victim-based approach that include greater accessibility and complainant-friendly practices.
Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.
DRF has worked with several journalists through workshops to provide them with digital security tools, established a “Network of Female Journalists for Digital Security” and published a guidebook titled “Digital Security for Journalists”. – Samaa