Eminent Pakistani lawyer and digital rights advocate, Nighat Dad, has been selected in the prestigious Information and Democracy Commission launched by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Based in Paris, the organization formed the panel of highly distinguished personalities from all over the world 70 years after the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the French Capital.
Co-chaired by Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Iranian lawyer, a former judge, Human Rights activist and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran; and RSF’s Secretary-general Christophe Deloire; the panel includes stellar names including Peruvian novelist and Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and Nigerian human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim, a recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize as well as Nobel economics laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen.
According to RSF: “This independent panel is being created at a time when “the crisis of trust in democracies and the growing influence of despotic regimes pose a major threat to freedoms, civil harmony and peace,” the co-chairs say in the letter defining its mission. Political control of information in a globalized public space, the influence of private interests, the growing power of corporate actors who escape democratic control and the undermining of quality journalism are the leading causes.”
Commenting about her selection, Nighat commented on social media: “(I am) very proud and honored to share this news. I have become part of Information & Democracy Commission launched by Reporters Without Borders along with Nobel Peace prize laureates Shirin Ebadi, Amartya Sen & 22 (other) global leaders. The Commission is having its first meeting in Paris today (September 11th, 2018) along with a press conference shortly and meeting with the French President (Emmanuel Macron). This initiative is needed to preserve a free and pluralistic public space, which is essential for democracies around the world.”
Later, she further added: “The Information Democracy Commission met with (the) first head of State, President of France Emmanuel Macron today (Sept 12th, 2018). Commission members had (a) really great discussion with him around different aspects of information and democracy in the digital age. It was great to see his commitments towards democratic principles and setting a precedent for other democracies.”
Nighat Dad runs an award winning not-for-profit organization, Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan (DRF) which not only promotes cyber safety, but also educates Internet users especially women to protect themselves from cyber harassment and other forms of violence. Named in the TIME magazine’s list of next generation leaders for helping the Pakistani woman fight digital harassment in 2015, presented with the Atlantic Council Digital Freedom Award; and Human Rights Award by the Dutch government in 2016, Nighat has led campaigns against legislation that enables the Pakistani government broad powers of online surveillance. Nighat and her DRF team launched a groundbreaking cyber harassment hotline – a first for Pakistan – in 2016 where victim of different forms of violence, particularly online, could call in for expert advice, support and help. According to the DRF: “Anyone facing online harassment can call in on 0800-39393 to talk in a “free, safe and confidential” environment.”
Other names selected in the RSF’s newly formed Commission includes Abdou Diouf, a former president of Senegal and former secretary-general of the International Organization of the Francophonie; Navi Pillay, a South African lawyer and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Francis Fukuyama, a US political scientist, essayist and Stanford University professor; Mireille Delmas Marty, a French jurist and Collège de France honorary professor; and Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights lawyer; journalists Can Dündar (Turkey), Maria Ressa (Philippines), Ulrik Haagerup (Denmark), Ann Marie Lipinski and Marina Walker (United States), Aidan White (United Kingdom) and Mikhail Zygar (Russia) and Adam Michnik (Poland), as well as the following technology specialists: Harvard professor Yochai Benkler; Emily Bell, the director of the University of Columbia’s Tow Center; Antoine Petit, the head of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS); Eli Pariser, the founder of the website Upworthy and co-founder of Avaaz; the Italian researcher Primavera de Filippi.
Reporters Without Borders, or Reporters Sans Frontières, is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Paris, France, that conducts political advocacy on issues relating to freedom of information and freedom of the press
Photo Credit: Nighat Dad