Free speech and privacy on the internet have eroded around the world owing to increased restrictions on political, social and cultural content.
Pakistan was among the countries with “no freedom”, according to the Freedom On The Net 2019 report. Pakistan’s score decreased from 27 to 26 in the past year.
According to the report, the reasons of the decline in freedom include increased obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of users’ rights in Pakistan.
There were 5/25 obstacles to access, or 20%. Limits on content stood at 14/35, or 40%. Similarly, violations of user rights were valued at 7/40, or 17.5%.
The report’s authors on Pakistan are digital rights activist and lawyer Nighat Dad, lawyer Shmyla Khan and the Digital Rights Foundation.
The report revealed that over 831,000 websites in Pakistan were blocked in 2018, including 770,000 for pornographic content, 34,700 for blasphemy, 11,500 for anti-state, anti-judiciary, sectarian or hateful content and, more than 800 for defamation or impersonation.
Content on Facebook was also restricted while users’ social media activity was monitored by authorities.
“Between July to December 2018, the number of content restrictions went up from 2,203 (from January-June 2018) to 4,165 items,” it read.
Over 2,349 profiles and 193 pieces of content were reported by authorities to Twitter.
The survey stated that in January 2019, Twitter sent notices to several journalists, activists and lawyers for content that violated Pakistan’s laws. The notices were officially based on “official correspondence”. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has denied the government was involved in reporting the tweets.
The July 2018 elections in the country saw a rise in connectivity restrictions and disinformation, the report stated. “The authorities silenced journalists and charged them with posting blasphemous content,” it mentioned.
Among the ‘not free’ countries were Russia, China, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, Iran, Bahrain, UAE and Vietnam.