Blasphemy in the digital world

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On 10th December, 2015, International Human Rights Day, Digital Rights Foundation held a dialogue at Shirkat Gah, Lahore on Religious Intolerance in the Digital Sphere. The issue under discussion was that court cases have been brought forward against people using existing laws and the evidence provided is their social media presence and participation. Civil society had a dynamic debate regarding potential solutions.

 The panel consisted of Asad Jamal (High Court Lawyer), IA Rahman (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan), Arafat Mazhar (Engage), Peter Jacob (Centre for Social Justice) and was moderated by Nighat Dad (Digital Rights Foundation). The panel put forward certain recommendations and discussion points such as the role of the state in cyber legislation.

The audience recommended counter narratives and reclamation of on line space instead of more self censorship. There was a focus on personal digital security as well as visibility of alternative views in safe on line spaces.

Another suggestion was to demand companies like Facebook apply their freedom of expression policies consistently across countries. Furthermore, companies like Facebook should be aware of legislations and laws that are used to suppress freedom of expression which contradict their own ideologies.

A recommendation put forward stressed that there is a lack of digital forensic training which is problematic because digital evidence has been accepted in courts as of 2002. If a person is being charged based on social media or cyber evidence alone, then the person should not be arrested or charged formally until the completion of the digital forensics.

Digital Rights Foundation will  be releasing a report on this issue on 18th December, 2015. It will be available on line.