Three-day workshop on Internet rights are human rights

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By Haroon Baloch

LAHORE, (April 24, 2016): Bytes for All, Pakistan, under its project IMPACT (India, Malaysia and Pakistan Advocacy for Change through Technology), conducted a three-day workshop on Internet Rights are Human Rights (IRHR) on April 21-23 with the aim to improve literacy of human rights defenders on digital rights including freedom of expression, right to privacy, and rights to freedom of assembly and association.

Sessions on secure online communications and awareness raising on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) were also part of the workshop. Twenty human rights defenders working on gender, child, religious, and freedom of expression rights participated in the workshop.

Awais Akram, who works as a programme manager with Bedari told he knew about right to freedom of expression, however, its transformation in online spaces was a unique learning.

A few organisations in Pakistan talk about digital spaces and related rights, despite the fact that an exponential growth is witnessed in information and communication technology in recent years.

“As rights defenders, we frequently talk about social issues, however, what their online implications are and how these rights are evolving, is new and interesting debate in Pakistan”: Abid Ali of Aurat Foundation said, adding that information shared by the trainers on the right to privacy and security of correspondence in the context of our sensitive work was very important.

Universal Periodic Review is a UN reporting mechanism, which is relatively new and unique for human rights defenders, as well as the states. Pakistan is due to complete its 2nd cycle in November 2017 and with the beginning of 3rd cycle, situation of human rights will be reviewed.

Civil society has a significant role in this process as they would monitor rights violations under different thematic areas, policy making at domestic levels, and prepare shadow reports. A session on this unique mechanism not only helped building capacity of human rights defenders but also benefited in strategising future course of action.

Bytes for All also intends to submit a shadow report by mid-March 2017 based on developments around its key result areas, including gender rights, Internet governance, freedom of expression, right to privacy and freedom of assembly and association.

In this context, consultative meetings with human rights defenders, journalists and academia were organised in Lahore and Islamabad in February and March 2016 for preparation of a summary of information for mid-term review.

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