The Freedom House, US state-funded nonprofit organization publishes an annual report on the freedom on the internet across the globe every year. The organization has published the report of its study for 2017.
The report ranked countries on a 100-point scale based on three broad categories: obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights. The greater the score – the greater restrictive is the country in terms of internet freedom.
According to the report, the organization failed to access 13% countries while only 23% countries across the globe are declared completely free regarding the public access to cyberspace. 28% countries were declared “partially free” while Thirty-Six percent others were ranked among “not free”.
Pakistan has been placed among the countries with the worst internet freedom. Pakistan with 71 points this year has beaten its previous score of 69 by two. This means Pakistan allows only 29% freedom on the internet out of 100%.
Iceland, Estonia, Britain, and Canada were ranked among the most secure and free countries for internet freedom.
China was crowned with the title of the country with the world’s worst internet freedoms, scoring 87 points followed by Iran and Syria on second and Ethiopia on third. Pakistan falls on the number eighth among the rankings of world’s worst countries.
According to the report since the enactment of Electronic Crimes Act in August 2016 the internet freedom and security in Pakistan has widely been affected. The strong surveillance and censorship have reduced cyberspace for internet users in the country.
The arrest of a teenager in 2016 for liking a blasphemous post and sentencing death penalty in another facebook blasphemy case in 2017 by a court are among several such cases indicating the worst case scenario of internet freedoms in Pakistan.
The Freedom House report has also taken in the account the abduction, enforced disappearance and detention of five secularist bloggers known for criticizing the authorities in Pakistan. Four among them were released after months of detention, while one remains still missing. One of the released bloggers later openly held government institutions responsible for his detention and torture.
The government orders to service providers, technical filters, restricting political social and religious content online were also accounted.
“Violations of user rights continued at high levels during the coverage period, including two unrelated murders by different actors responding to online speech, and five blogger abductions. Civil society groups say the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act approved in 2016 criminalizes legitimate online activity, and more problematic prosecutions based on allegations of online blasphemy were reported.
Government surveillance is a concern for activists, bloggers, and media representatives, as well as ordinary internet users. Pakistani law enforcement and intelligence agencies appear to have expanded their monitoring activities, including at the local level, ostensibly to curb terrorism and violent crime” the report cited.