Keeping the Internet Open for All in Pakistan


In Pakistan at the moment because of the geostrategic location, because of the war on terror, there’s very little focus on social justice issues. We have over three dozen—more than three dozen—news channels, but they tend to only cover certain aspects because of course if there’s a bomb going on, you won’t be talking about water shortage. You will just be talking about that bombing. So we believe that the internet itself provides that ultimate medium for people to come out and talk about the issues that they are facing, and to be able to communicate with their policymakers. Privacy and freedom of expression are completely interlinked. A lot of the time, people do not want to talk very freely because they feel that they are being monitored. Our focus is not only to broaden the number of people that come in, but also push for behavior change, because like in the U.S., it’s supposedly free and independent and available for all. But people here as well, the same thing, women and people of color do not have the same freedoms in the U.S. that other majority people have. Very similar to in Pakistan. And when we fight for open access, we want to make sure the platform is not only open and supposedly free, that it’s actually free
in every sense of the word. Freedom of expression is not only limited
by how the state cracks down on it or other factors. It’s also limited by people themselves who choose not to speak up. And that, in my opinion, is much more dangerous. In terms of gender, we’ve seen in Pakistan
and elsewhere as well that women tend to have less access, tend to be more marginalized. You see that when a war happens, you see that in stress situations, you see that in riots, you see that in all these situations. So part of the work that we are doing is a
project that we are doing that’s called Her Story. And the idea behind it is that the word “feminism,” or the word “feminine rights movement,” is largely, unfortunately, a white phenomena. Whereas there are women of color, there are local feminists, there are local heroes that young women and men need to look up to, and those stories are not part of our history books, those stories are not part of our mainstream media narrative. What we are doing is that we’re using this alternate platform, the internet and social media, to tell these stories to provide an
alternate history of the country and of these social movements. The internet is not going anywhere. It’s only going to expand. So if it’s just now twenty million people and you’re going to make this into a very limited space and pass all these draconian laws, when other people come on, they won’t see the internet that we saw, they won’t see the internet that we grew up with. They’ll see a space that’s very, very limited. They’ll see a space that’s very, very narrow. They’ll see a space where walls are closing in. And we want to stop that. We want it to be first open, secure, accessible to everybody, and then whatever laws or regulation you want to bring in, bring them in with full transparency and accountability. So I feel that’s the fight that we are still fighting but I think that we’ve pushed back and I think we’ve won.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *