Digital security is not gender specific but Digital Rights Foundation started an initiative to train specifically female journalists so they are secure in the online world.  

DRF marked the launch of their Network of Female Journalists on Online Safety on 12th December. The launch was coupled with a two-day advance training with 28 female journalists from across Pakistan.

Aim of establishing a network is to empower female journalists to practice and promote online safety within media houses and to raise awareness regarding digital rights issues in mainstream media. Journalists were made aware about reporting on digital rights issues leading to improved quality of reporting when talking about the said rights. They were told of various methods to secure their data too.

Nighat Dad, the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation , said, “the line between online and offline is blurred making digital rights as important as other rights. Pakistan particularly lacks in recognizing rights of people in online spaces as the awareness around the issues is next to none.” She added, “by training journalists on reporting on digital rights and prioritising online safety given the sensitive nature of their work, the network aims at spreading the word beyond the realms of books and articles and into the mainstream media.”

The network will ensure quick and easy access to DRF’s Cyber Harassment Helpline (0800-39393) to journalists and human rights defenders. The helpline is the first of its kind in Pakistan and provides legal advice, digital security support, and psychological counselling to the victims of cyber harassment.

While speaking to The Nation DRF’s consultant Jannat said, “It’s very important for women to know of their safety. These trainings have helped many women to secure themselves online. When privacy is violated, it is hard for a woman to handle the pressure due to our societal norms. In extreme cases it can lead to suicide.”

According to DRF’s report published in July this year, the Cyber Harassment Helpline had received 763 complaints in the form of calls, emails and Facebook messages from December 1, 2016 till May 31, 2017. The helpline had received 703 calls on the helpline out of which 569 callers were calling for the first time. The Cyber Harassment Helpline also started identifying the mental health consequences of cyber harassment with a descriptive and psychological review of the calls. It was identified that out of a sample of 50 callers who gave psychological data, 18% experienced fear and 18% felt anger which further led to depression (17%), insecurities (19%), disturbed sleep (15%), withdrawal from family and friends (14%), anxiety/paranoia (10%), suicidal thoughts (5%), chronic stress (16%) and problems in relationships (4%).

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.