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Since we launched India, Malaysia, Pakistan – Advocacy for Change through Technology (APC-IMPACT) project, APC has been working with local members and partners to protect and promote human rights on the internet. As part of the project, our partners have developed a baseline of research that has produced three papers focusing on internet-related rights, with a specific focus on freedom of expression. Using the APC-La Rue Framework, the analyses focus on India, Malaysia and Pakistan and the increasingly challenging context that these countries face.
The research assesses the state of freedom of expression online and related rights by examining the laws and policies concerning arbitrary blocking or filtering of content, criminalising of legitimate expression, imposition of internet intermediary liability, the implications of disconnecting users from the internet, cyber attacks, privacy and data protection, and internet access.
Among the challenges in the three countries are targeting and harassment of bloggers and journalists in particular when reporting on politically sensitive topics, especially those relating to national security (such as Balochistan in Pakistan); moral policing of online spaces, in particular regarding religion, race, and royalty in Malaysia; limitations on access hindering the exercise of freedom of expression and other rights, in particular in India; lack of transparency on the role of intermediaries in content restriction, and the targeting of religious minorities for their online expression.
The reports touch on some important trends that extend beyond the region, including the application of restrictive legislation to online spaces, reinforcing a continuum between the exercise of human rights online and offline, and the need for greater public consultation and input from civil society, human rights experts, and other relevant stakeholders in the development of laws, regulations, and policies that impact internet rights.
Each country report makes recommendations for relevant stakeholders
APC-IMPACT is a joint initiative between the Digital Empowerment Foundation (India), EMPOWER (Malaysia), and Bytes for All, Pakistan (Pakistan). It is supported by the European Union under the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Human rights defenders, national organisations, policy makers, regulators, internet service providers, lawyers, members of the judiciary and regional and global rights mechanisms are all involved in the project to advance recognition and understanding of internet rights and improve human rights on the ground.
Photo: Internet Rights Are Human Rights workshop - APC IMPACT.