Participants of a seminar on cyberspaces and human rights have called for respect to openness and neutrality in the Internet regime. Eminent human rights activists, journalists and officials from Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Islamabad Police attended the seminar that was jointly organized by National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan. The seminar was chaired by the NCHR Chairman Justice (R) Ali Nawaz Chowhan.
Various issues related to freedom of expression in online spaces, right to privacy, the intersection of gender and Internet, online peaceful assemblies, misuse of social media and newly-enacted Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act came under discussion.
Human rights activist and journalist Marvi Sirmed expressed her concerns over increased criminalization of legitimate online expression in Pakistan. She said that enforced disappearances of bloggers and social media activists has emerged as looming threat to free speech, especially after enactment of PECA, which is resulting in self-censorship and impunity.
She highlighted the issues of network disruptions and non-availability of network in far-flung areas. She said that misuse of blasphemy laws, especially in online expression cases is extremely dangerous trend. The government and judiciary very carefully look into these cases as blasphemy laws are infamous for their misuse and settling personal scores.
Women rights activist Ayesha Sarwari said the state of access to internet when comes to women is dismal in Pakistan. She was of the view that the women’s access to the internet has receded in recent years because of surge in technology driven violence and harassment against women and other genders.