Press Release, September 28, 2015
Internet Shutdowns in Pakistan harm economy and society, report shows
“The disconnection of communications networks has serious negative consequences for both economy and society in Pakistan” says Ben Wagner, who contributed to a new report on network shutdowns published today. In Pakistan, mobile and internet networks are disconnected frequently during public gatherings due to security concerns.
The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), the Center for Internet and Human Rights (CIHR) and Bytes for All Pakistan have jointly prepared a new report on the practice of mobile network shutdowns in Pakistan. Entitled “Security v Access: The Impact of Mobile Network Shutdowns”, it highlights economic and social impacts of network shutdowns based on the in-depth analysis of case studies from the Pakistani cities Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Internet cut-offs have social consequences as well. CIHR director Ben Wagner explains: “The goal of network shutdowns is supposed to be protecting civilian lives, but they may indeed have the opposite effect. They put civilians at risks, because emergency services cannot operate.”
To gain first hand insights for the report, a local researcher was embedded into the headquarters of a large telecommunications operator in Islamabad to observe and document how the company receives and acts on government requests to initiate network shutdowns.
Drawing on the data collected, the report outlines policy recommendations both for the Pakistani government and telecommunications operators. Most importantly, it calls for continued access to emergency services during shutdowns and the creation of a clear legal framework that ensures accountability and transparency. John Morrison, IHRB’s Executive Director, points out that “while these recommendations are based on a specific case study from Pakistan, they have important lessons for all countries and telecommunications providers.”
The report also discusses alternative approaches to deal with security concerns. Experts highlight that network shutdowns cannot be a long term solution in the fight against terrorism for any country. Enforcing network disconnections is a blunt instrument that prevents law enforcement bodies from using communications for the purpose of combating terrorism and makes it impossible to appeal for calm.
More research on network disconnection. Overview of CIHR publications.