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Pakistan: The “Access Is My Right” Campaign

Pakistani Internet rights NGO Bytesforall has started an online campaign about internet filtering and online censorship. The campaign, called “Access Is My Right,” aims to raise Internet users’ awareness about policies and practices that limit the right to free expression online.

In recent years, online surveillance in Pakistan has increased tremendously. Government officials have repeatedly argued that this is done in the interest of citizens’ safety and security. The tagline for this awareness campaign is “A Pakistan free of censorship and surveillance will be a prosperous Pakistan.”

“This campaign is a call for [a] larger human rights movement in the country and citizens to fight the ongoing censorship as it will further take its toll on already compromised civil liberties in the country. We invite all individuals who have been affected by online censorship, or are against the idea of Internet and communications bans, to join the movement and protest by sharing the campaign visuals over the Internet as much as they can.”

Pakistan has taken increasing measures in recent years to implement digital censorship. The government went so far as to purchase a comprehensive URL filtering system which would block access to any ‘undesired’ URLs — official documentation defined the term ‘undesired’ using vague terminology related to morality. In the face of policy developments like this one, the role of campaigns such as “Access is my Right” (AIMR) is critical.

Communication rights are fundamental rights

Communication rights are fundamental rights

 

The campaign has mustered significant traction on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Infographics circulated by the campaign’s Facebook page have already been shared by hundreds and are sparking active debate.

In creating these infographics, the team behind AIMR has focused on the problems that arise once the government chooses to censor the web or take down cellular services in select regions of the country. These problems range from inability to contact help in an emergency to huge business losses and more.

It has been over two months since YouTube was banned in Pakistan. In a blog post on the Access is My Right website, an interesting illustration by Anny Zafar reads: “It's not YouTube, it's OurTube”:

 Illustrated by Anny Zafar. For printable file, please contact info@bytesforall.pk.

Illustrated by Anny Zafar. For printable file, please contact info@bytesforall.pk.

AIMR highlights this in a blog post entitled, “Moral Policing will Tarnish our Nascent Democracy“:

Governments who do not trust their citizens police their thoughts and access to information through shackles of ruthless censorship.

 Design and illustration by Anny Zafar

Design and illustration by Anny Zafar

 

Free internet platforms for education, awareness and entertainment have become an integral aspect of public life in the 21st century and can play a critical role in allowing citizens to contribute positively to a nation’s progress. The Access is my Right campaign aims to increase citizen involvement in protecting these vital platforms. Visit the campaign site to learn more and get involved.

The post was written in collaboration with Salman Lateef.

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