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A year after Snowden revelations, damage persists to freedom of expression in Pakistan

The following is a 17 June 2014 CPJ Blog post by Sana Saleem, CPJ guest blogger.

In Pakistan, where freedom of expression is largely perceived as a Western notion, the Snowden revelations have had a damaging effect. The deeply polarized narrative has become starker as the corridors of power push back on attempts to curb government surveillance. "If the citizens of the United States of America cannot have these rights, how can you? .." is an argument that rights advocate hear way too often. The Snowden revelations quickly became a moment of recognition for those otherwise labeled as conspiracy theorists who believed that all digital transmissions become a tool that can be used by the U.S. government. Unlike, for example, Brazil, which has fought back, the government of Pakistan is working on ways it could replicate a NSA-like model in this country.

Just months after the revelations, some of which reported that Pakistan was one of the leading countries (second only to Iran) being surveilled by the U.S. National Security Agency, a draft of a Cybercrime Law surfaced. The draft, reportedly commissioned by the government, contained provisions for the constitution of an NSA-like cyber authority and Pakistan's very own 5 Eyes program (a signals intelligence-sharing alliance). The draft bill was quickly shot down after pushback from civil society, but attempts at tabling new legislation have not stopped.

Read the full blog post on CPJ's site.

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