Internet freedom has declined in Pakistan since 2020

Since 2020, the freedom of the internet in Pakistan has sharply decreased because of increasing government blocking of political, social, and cultural websites.

This is the main perspective obtained from Dawn's "Annual Pakistan Press Legal Review 2020," which was released on the 3rd May in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day by the Institute of Research, Advocacy, and Development (IRADA).

"The combined consequence of these results was that Pakistan had already exacerbated significantly during 2020 the already uncomfortable legal system covering freedom of speech, access to information and digital rights."

Mohammad Aftab Alam, IRADA Executive Director says that the late I. A. Rehman was devoted to the media legal analysis for 2020.

The study said Pakistan has had serious setbacks in the fields of enforcement, free speech, and the right to know – especially online – in Internet policies and regulations. It said Pakistan has regressed considerably.

"This leads to the censorship, hate speech, automated monitoring, and violation online of data protection, disinformation, and misinformation," the study added.

2020 saw an agger government aiming to broaden and strengthen its powers to over-regulate the media industry and to redefine the limits of freedom of expression, not just for journalists and intelligence professionals, but also for the political opposition parties and groups and their representatives. The government is an authoritarian government.

The report nevertheless added that, with the aim of increasing its policy of decreased openness to criticism, the government was accelerating efforts to improve Internet restrictions.

According to the survey, "13 cases of Peca's conduct were registered during the year against journalists or human rights activists."

The study also noted that in 2020 social media apps and channels were being reappeared with vengeance.

The Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) conducted investigations or released notifications under the Computer Crime Legislation against journalists or online informational practitioners. At least two were also arrested in connection with their reportedly illegal activity online.

"The government must back up its highly coercive policies and aggressive activities," says Mr. Alam, "to ensure that we maintain the diversity and inclusion of online spaces in our society.