18th October 2017 – Bolo Bhi conducted 3 digital security workshops at the Mass Communication Department of the School of Social Sciences at NUST this week in Islamabad. The sessions were specifically designed to train future journalists in strategies to improve their digital security, including mobile phones, computers, and online communications. The workshops were attended by approximately 150 journalism students.
Bolo Bhi is a research, policy and advocacy organisation focusing on freedom of expression, right to information, and internet rights. Digital security workshops are becoming a necessity for journalists considering the increase in online journalism and communication. Journalists are not only vulnerable to cyber threats and attacks, but also susceptible to surveillance due to the sensitive and political nature of the data that they work on.
In Pakistan, the climate for journalists is particularly hostile. Digital security training is critical in enabling journalists to protect themselves, as well as their sources. The strategies discussed also offer the potential to tackle the fake news epidemic that has broken out in the country due to increasing online connectivity: information is spreading faster than ever before, and it is difficult to control what goes viral.
The workshops delved into methods, softwares, and applications that could be used to enhance the security of one’s devices, social media accounts, and online communication. They emphasized certain thinking and behavioral patterns that are important to adopt in lieu of the threats that individuals face in their line of work.
The workshops also included an information session regarding the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016. Awareness and knowledge of cyber crime legislation is important in order to understand the right to speech, information, and privacy as well as their limitations within Pakistan. It is also crucial to enable individuals to make informed decisions with regards to their online activity.
In this context the workshop focused on clauses that offer protection to individuals against cybercrime: Sections 20 and 21 that deal with offences against the natural dignity or modesty of a person or minor, and Section 24 that deals with cyberstalking. The other clauses that were discussed focused on censorship and surveillance: Section 32 dealing with retention of traffic data; Section 37 dealing with unlawful online content; and finally Section 39 dealing with the real time collection and recording of information.
The Bolo Bhi team that conducted these workshops is comprised of the Director Usama Khilji; Research Associate Saleha Zahid; and Communications Officer Aleena Niaz. The workshops proved to be both interactive and informative, essentially propagating a message to future journalists to be responsible, safe, and ethical.