Surveillance INC: Silencing Twenty Million Pakistanis

Karachi 29/10/2012: Bolo Bhi is dismayed to learn that the Pakistan Government has decided to once again pursue the installation of a National URL Filtering and Blocking System.

In February, we wrote letters to western surveillance technology companies requesting them not to bid for the Government’s proposal seeking this technology. We received an overwhelming response – five out of nine companies committed not to bid – understanding the human rights violations involved in this trade. However, this has not stopped the authorities in Pakistan from pursuing the system. Despite commitments to shelve the system, reports suggest plans are underway for the implementation of a National URL filtering and blocking system.

Authoritarian regimes around the world have used surveillance to regulate and control public spheres. Western surveillance tools have enabled the repression. We need to stop censorship from being big business. We cannot allow these companies to continue to threaten citizens’ freedoms and profit from it.The threat to open internet is posed not just by governments, but also companies that are complicit in assisting goverments with censorship by providing the technology.

From banning websites that reveal human rights violations by state authorities to websites maintained by minority sects, Pakistan has a history of ad hoc political censorship and blanket surveillance. There’s little doubt then that the National URL blocking system will be used to restrict access, free flow of information and serve as a tool for surveillance. In light of this, we demand that western surveillance companies not to assist in furthering this authoritarian agenda and publicly commit to human rights and ethical business standards.

Email: Sana Saleem

Bolo Bhi means ‘Speak up’, in Urdu. We are a not-for-profit geared towards advocacy, policy and research in the areas of gender rights, government transparency, legislation, Internet freedom, digital security, privacy and empowerment. We, at Bolo Bhi, believe it is crucial to bridge the gap between rights advocates, policy makers, media and citizens. It is by bridging this gap that one can move ahead to chart a way forward and resolve issues through consensus, in a way that is mutually beneficial.

Previous statements related to E-Crime Legislation & Policy: 


National URL Filtering System: Tool Kit

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