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Pakistan “Cracks” down on Social Media, Government takes stern actions

The current crackdown has revived memories of the disappearances this year of at least five bloggers

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Pakistani youth is protesting against government. Wikimedia

Islamabad, May 26, 2017: Taha Siddiqui was relaxing in his living room with his son after work when he received a telephone call. On the other end of the line was a man claiming to be with the counterterrorism department of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. The man, who Siddiqui said identified himself as Nadeem Bodla, a deputy director of the counterterrorism wing in the FIA, told Siddiqui to “drop everything” and immediately report to his office.

“It wasn’t a courteous call,” Siddiqui recalled. “It was actually a call where he was talking from a point of authority. The tone was intimidating.”

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As a freelance journalist working with several international outlets, Siddiqui had been covering military affairs.

His work had drawn attention in the past. Journalists who did not know him would sometimes call and urge him to rethink what he was filing, telling him authorities thought he was overstepping a boundary.

This was the first time, though, that a government entity had officially approached him. The move concerned Siddiqui, who feared an arrest over “illegal charges” or the seizure of his equipment that could compromise his work and sources.

Others questioned, too

Others, namely political activists and opposition figures, had been called in for questioning based solely on their social media activity.

FILE - Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries chant slogans during a rally in support of blasphemy laws, in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media.
FILE – Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries chant slogans during a rally in support of blasphemy laws, in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media. VOA

One of them, Salar Sultanzai, tweeted from his handle @MeFixer that the FIA had told him to submit his cellphone and laptop for inspection.

Siddiqui decided to file a petition of harassment in the Islamabad High Court.

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Interior Minister Ali Khan, in a news conference this week, maintained that the steps taken by the FIA were legal. The constitution, Khan said, barred anyone from demeaning the country’s armed forces, its judiciary or its national religion, Islam.

“I assure you no one is putting any restrictions on social media,” Khan said, “but a free-for-all social media is also unacceptable for a democracy.”

He also said that only 27 social media identities and eight individuals had been identified for questioning and that no one had been arrested or harassed.

Party activists feel targeted

Opposition leader Imran Khan, whose PTI party held protests across the country this week, disagreed. He said the government was using excuses to crack down against activists from his party. Others from the party concurred.

“This is all political,” said Faisal Javed Khan of PTI. “It’s political victimization. They’re picking our guys because they have been highlighting [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif’s corruption.”

Another PTI activist, Shahzad Waseem, said the crackdown went against the norms of freedom of expression. “Unfortunately, the government in Pakistan is trying to curb the voice of civil society of Pakistan,” he added.

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The current crackdown has revived memories of the disappearances this year of at least five bloggers. Many in the country blamed the intelligence agency ISI for picking them up for having criticized the military in their social media posts.

A countrywide uproar led to their return, but they were afraid to speak up about what happened. Most of them and their families reportedly left the country soon afterward. At least one of them told the BBC he had been tortured for pleasure by a government institution linked to the military.

Rules for social media use

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Khan directed the relevant government departments to formulate a framework “which ensures that social media is used as a medium to facilitate positive, constructive and healthy interactions … and not as a tool to propagate false information, pass defamatory comments, ridicule or humiliate sacred personalities, national institutions or jeopardizing social, religious and cultural values of any community.”

He has also requested that the national assembly speaker reach out to all political parties over this issue.

Meanwhile, Siddiqui is waiting for his hearing next week to find out why he was approached over his journalistic work. (VOA)

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Send Your own Nudes to Facebook to Stop Revenge Porn

Facebook is testing a new method to stop revenge porn that requires you to send your own nudes to yourself via the social network's Messenger app

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Send your own nudes
Send your own nudes via messenger app to yourself.Pixabay.

Sydney, Nov 9: Facebook is testing a new method to stop revenge porn that requires you to send your own nudes to yourself via the social network’s Messenger app.

This strategy would help Facebook to create a digital fingerprint for the picture and mark it as non-consensual explicit media.

So if a relationship goes sour, you could take proactive steps to prevent any intimate images in possession of your former love interest from being shared widely on Facebook or instagram.

Facebook is partnering with a Australian government agency to prevent such image-based abuses, the Australia Broadcasting Corp reported.

If you’re worried your intimate photos will end up on Instagram or Facebook, you can get in contact with Australi’s e-Safety Commissioner. They might then tell you to send your own nudes to yourself on Messenger.

send your own nudes to yourself
Facebook is coming up with a method to prevent revenge porn if you send your own nudes to yourself. Pixabay.

“It would be like sending yourself your image in email, but obviously this is a much safer, secure end-to-end way of sending the image without sending it through the ether,” e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant told ABC.

Once the image is sent via Messenger, Facebook would use technology to “hash” it, which means creating a digital fingerprint or link.

“They’re not storing the image, they’re storing the link and using artificial intelligence and other photo-matching technologies,” Grant said.

“So if somebody tried to upload that same image, which would have the same digital footprint or hash value, it will be prevented from being uploaded,” she explained.

Australia is one of four countries taking part in the “industry-first” pilot which uses “cutting-edge technology” to prevent the re-sharing on images on its platforms, Facebook’s Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis was quoted as saying.

“The safety and wellbeing of the Facebook community is our top priority,” Davis said. (IANS)

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Delhi Smog : Bollywood Actors Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor, Tapsee Pannu share Their concern on Social Media

Bollywood actors expresses their concern over Delhi Smog.

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Varun Dhawan shares his concern over Delhi Smog
Varun Dhawan shares his concern over Delhi Smog.Instagram
  • Delhi smog levels are going high day by day and have become a major health concern for delhiites.
  • Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Tapsee Bannu and other express their concern over Delhi Smog.

Bollywood Actors share messages about Delhi Smog

Delhi Smog has choked almost everyone’s breath. Actor Varun Dhawan who is currently shooting in Delhi for his movie ‘October’ gives a message to go green in his Instagram post. He is masked and taking a selfie with a sheet of thick smog in the background. He even captioned his selfie, “I have clicked this selfie to show you guys what actual smog looks like. I don’t want to preach I am equally to blame for this mess as most of the citizens of our great country, but now instead of blaming each other and the government let’s change. It’s time we go green. #delhichokes.”

Actors like Taapsee Pannu, Arjun Kapoor and Dia Mirza also shared their messages on social media. They wrote-

Arjun tweeted the video of an accident which took place on Yamuna Expressway today due to high level of smog.

Prepared By Pragya Mital f NewsGram | Twitter @PragyaMittal05

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Restrictions on Freedom of Expression : Pakistani Journalists Struggle with Growing Threats from Government and Militants alike

A recent cybercrime bill in Pakistan has become a vehicle for curbing media freedom, allowing the government to censor digital content, criminalize internet user activity and access bloggers' data without judicial review. Media defenders say the country's blasphemy laws also are being used to cut off public debate.

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Pakistani journalists protest to condemn an attack on their colleague, in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Assailants riding on motorcycles have attacked an outspoken Pakistani journalist, leaving him badly hurt with head injuries. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil) VOA

Pakistan, November 2, 2017 : Journalists in Pakistan say they are facing increasing risks ranging from the government’s expanding control over social media to extremist threats that have spread from long-volatile regions to the streets of the capital.

The latest attack left a journalist badly beaten on a street in Islamabad. Earlier this year, security agencies picked up several bloggers from urban centers who said after their release that they had been tortured and humiliated.

Threats to reporters have long been a problem in volatile Baluchistan and the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, but the recent incidents have reinforced complaints by media groups that the danger is spreading to the nation’s heartland.

The victim of the beating in Islamabad was Ahmad Noorani, a senior reporter for the influential Daily News newspaper, who previously had been warned to close his Twitter account after criticizing the powerful military. The attack attracted widespread condemnation on social media, where many posts blamed Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for the attack.

Other journalists have been charged with violating the country’s vague Anti-Terrorism Act, which defines terrorism as creating “a sense of fear or insecurity in society.” Critics say it has broad potential for abuse.

Several bloggers critical of the government or the military have vanished for weeks, later saying they had been kidnapped by the intelligence services.

Popular blogger Asim Saeed was snatched by unknown men earlier this year. He told the BBC in an interview last week that he was picked up by Pakistan intelligence agencies and tortured during his detention.

Digital media rights activists, meanwhile, are warning that Pakistan is attempting to cut back on internet freedom.

“In my opinion, the government is terrifying the social media activists,” Usama Khilji, director of the internet freedom organization Bolo Bhi, told VOA’s Deewa service. “Social media is a democratic medium where people can express their thoughts without any restrictions. However, it has been observed, when people share their thoughts, the government feels insecure.”

Anwar Iqbal, a Washington-based senior journalist and correspondent for the leading English-language newspaper Daily Dawn, agreed.

“The Pakistani state feels vulnerable in the presence of growing social media and wants to stifle the discourse on topics it considers sensitive,” he said.

The state does not want media to discuss sensitive issues like relations with the U.S., China, Afghanistan and India, Iqbal said, particularly in light of President Donald Trump’s new policy for the region calling for Islamabad to crack down on terrorist safe havens.

Reports from watchdog groups

Human Rights Watch’s 2016 report said media were being deterred from reporting on or criticizing human rights violations by the security services.

“Many journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship, fearing retribution from both state security forces and militant groups. Media outlets remained under pressure to avoid reporting on or criticizing human rights violations by the military in counterterrorism operations,” the report said.

Reporters Without Borders, a global media watchdog, in its annual report this year, ranked Pakistan 139 of 180 countries on its Press Freedom Index, despite its reputation having one of the most free media environments in Asia. The report says the nation’s media “are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organizations, and the feared intelligence agencies” — all of which are on the group’s list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”

Even when the threats come from extremist groups, journalists say, the government has done little to pursue the perpetrators.

But Interior Minister Talal Chaudry defended the government’s actions, suggesting the reporters should be doing more to protect themselves.

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Journalist Zafar Achakzai, who was held for sharing content criticizing security forces on social media, sits in his office after being released from jail, in Quetta, Pakistan, July 9, 2017. VOA

“We have included insurance for journalists in the journalists ‘protection bill,” he said. “Sometimes, journalists are not trained or not properly equipped, and that is why they become victims of violence. We understand journalists are sometimes victims of violence, and that is why we are bringing a comprehensive bill for working journalists in the parliament.”

Journalists: Situation worsening

But many journalists say things are getting worse. A recent cybercrime bill has become a vehicle for curbing media freedom, allowing the government to censor digital content, criminalize internet user activity and access bloggers’ data without judicial review. Media defenders say the country’s blasphemy laws also are being used to cut off public debate.

“We have laws in place for social media, but it’s not being controlled,” Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousef told Deewa when asked how the government can avoid the blasphemy law from being misused against social media.

Such problems are longstanding in Pakistan’s troubled southwestern Baluchistan province, where newspapers have been shut down and newsstands shuttered for more than a week amid threats from militant groups claiming the local media are too supportive of the central government.

“The resistance [militant] groups are calling on boycotting all media houses, threatening press offices and journalists,” Behram Baloch, who is now working from home, told VOA. “To address this issue, we held a meeting here at the press club. We decided to suspend our activities for a while, and press club will remain closed. Our movement is limited, and many of our colleagues have left their jobs.”

Militants from separatist groups, banned by the state, threw a hand grenade at an office of a newspaper agency in Turbat, Baluchistan, injuring eight people.

“Journalists as well as the Newspaper Editors Council received threats. As a result, our workers were forced not to leave their homes. They include press workers and hawkers. We were, thus, unable to pick up newspapers [for delivery],” said Mir Ahmed, general secretary of the Newspapers Wholesalers Association.

“Life and death are in the hands of God.” (VOA)