Centre for Internet & Society

Internet Democracy Project, Voices for Interactive Choice & Empowerment and Global Partners & Associates are organizing this event in Dhaka on January 14 - 15, 2013.

Pranesh Prakash is moderating the session on "Understanding cyber security and surveillance in South Asia today". Chinmayi Arun is speaking in this panel.

The Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression seeks to address the question of how freedom of expression on the Internet is best protected by taking as its starting point two of the biggest challenges for freedom of expression online in South Asia today: hate speech online on the one hand, and cyber security and surveillance on the other.

The meeting seeks to investigate how these challenges affect freedom of expression on the Internet as well as how they can be addressed most effectively while protecting free speech online. It will also touch briefly on the important question of what kind of Internet governance processes are most likely to ensure the desired outcomes materialise.

A very short history of the South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression
The first South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression took place in March 2011 in Delhi, and mapped the many challenges for free speech online in our region, as an input into the report on the Internet and freedom of expression of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue.

The second South Asian Meeting, in Kathmandu in November 2011, assessed the extent to which policy and regulation in the South Asian countries complied with the recommendations Mr. La Rue made in his report.

This third meeting will now build on these earlier efforts by bringing together experts from civil society, business, the research community and other stakeholder groups from across the region to discuss two of the biggest shared challenges for freedom of expression online in South Asia today in detail: the rising visibility of hate speech on the one hand, and the impact of discourses regarding cyber security and surveillance on the other.

Why focus on hate speech and security/surveillance now?
Since UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue, presented his report on the Internet and freedom of expression to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011, the complexity of this topic has received growing recognition. However, not all trends that La Rue had pointed out as directly affecting freedom of expression online – from access to the Internet to cyber attacks – are equally important in the South Asian region. Detailed analysis in several South Asian countries has shown that, though Internet penetration rates remain fairly low, most countries do possess, for example, the political will crucial to improve these figures. The two trends that seem to be of greatest concern in our region are that of the fight against hate speech, and the impact on freedom of expression of cyber security and surveillance measures. The latter is foregrounded for a variety of reasons ranging from the safety of individual users to national security.

Incidentally, across the region, as in many parts of the world, hate speech and cyber security have also been among the most important reasons governments have quoted to justify greater government control over the Internet. At the national level, this has at times manifested itself through the approval and implementation of legislation that has far-reaching consequences for freedom of speech online, without consulting many of the stakeholders who are affected at any point in time. At the global level, we see a growing number of proposals by governments that would effectively expand their collective powers to regulate the Internet, though with varying levels of involvement of other stakeholders envisioned.

Yet while governments' intentions when imposing censorship or approving surveillance measures may at times be in doubt, it is difficult to deny that the Internet has facilitated a new proliferation of hate speech, as well as that it has thrown up new security challenges that couldn't even be imagined before.

It is therefore our contention that the challenges of hate speech online and of ensuring cyber security in our region are real, and need to be addressed head-on if we are to strengthen and protect the right to freedom of expression online. For this reason, the meeting seeks to investigate both the precise nature of these challenges and what Internet governance mechanisms we need to evolve to ensure that they can be addressed most effectively whilst upholding and strengthening the right to freedom of expression. If we are to take the challenges the threats of hate speech and cyber security policy embody seriously yet also aim to uphold and strengthen the right to freedom of expression online, then what are the solutions we require? And who will need to be responsible for implementing them?

Taking into account the many parallels in the shape problems of hate speech and cyber security and surveillance take across the South Asian region as a result of shared cultures and historical legacies alike, participants will be invited from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Moreover, as solutions to these problems will invariably require collaboration among various stakeholders in the Internet governance field in order to be effective, participants will be drawn from a wide variety of stakeholder groups, including civil society, business, government, academia and the media from across the region. In this way, the meeting hopes tofacilitate a South Asia wide, multistakeholder dialogue, to learn, discuss and evolve more detailed thinking on these topics for one and a half days. The meeting will come to an end with a public event at the end of the second day.

The meeting will use a variety of formats, including key note presentations, panel discussions, case studies and small group conversations.


January 14, 2013


Welcome and introductions to participants


Introduction to the meeting: the challenge that hate speech online and cyber security/surveillance pose to freedom of expression on the Internet – Dixie Hawtin

  • Intro: Internet governance and human rights issues in general
  • Why is this event focussed on hate speech and surveillance?


Tea/coffee break


The challenge of hate speech on the Internet in South Asia Strengthening the right to freedom of expression to curtail hate speech (Anja Kovacs)

Three country perspectives, from the Maldives (Mariyath Mohamed), Pakistan (tbc), and Bangladesh (Salim Khan)
Moderator: Bishakha Datta




Keynote: Thinking about a rights-based approach to cyber security and surveillance as it relates to speech – KS Park


Understanding cyber security and surveillance in South Asia today With Three country perspectives from Bangladesh (Mohammad Rahman), Nepal (Kailash Prasad Neupane) and India (Chinmayi Arun).
Moderator: Pranesh Prakash


Tea/coffee break


Legal and ethical questions and challenges when addressing cyber security and surveillance: two case studies – Rohan Samarajiva

January 15, 2013


Introduction to day 2


Cybersecurity, surveillance and hate speech online – key issues that need to be addressed in governance in order to protect Internet freedom of expession. This session will discuss particular issues that have relevance for both cyber security debates and hate speech issues in greater depth. Four topics that will be addressed are:

  • The question of anonimity (KS Park)
  • Cross-border cooperation and other jurisdictional issues in context of cloud computing and crossborder data flows and storage (Aditya Rao)
  • Domain Names and registration (Babu Ram Aryal)
  • Intermediaries as law enforcers (Suman Pradhan)

Moderator: Shahzad Ahmed


Tea/coffee break


What kind of solutions could a rights-based approach throw up to the challenges raised so far in the meeting?

Open discussion in groups and plenary, following key note speaker, Bulbul Monjurul Ahsan


Summing up and thank you



15:00 – 16:00

Meeting participants move to venue for public meeting, tea/coffee break and arrival of wider public


PUBLIC EVENT: The Internet and freedom of expression

Confirmed speakers include: Abu Taher, Info Commissioner; Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh; Sarah Hossain, Lawyer and Honorary Executive Director, BLAST; Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation; Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, eminent journalist and CEO, Boishakhi Television; and Rohan Samarajiva, Chair and CEO, LIRNEasia.

List of Participants

  1. Aditya Rao, Senior Associate, Amarchand Mangaldas, India
  2. Ahmed Swapan, Executive Director, VOICE, Bangladesh
  3. Amrit Pant, General Secretary, Computer Association of Nepal & President, Information Technology Development Society, Nepal
  4. Anja Kovacs, Project Director, Internet Democracy Project, India
  5. Babu Ram Aryal, President, Internet Society, Nepal Chapter, Nepal
  6. Binaya Guragain, Coordinator of Programs, Equal Access, Nepal
  7. Bishakha Datta, Wikimedia Foundation Board Member & Co-founder, Point of View, India
  8. Chinmayi Arun, Assistant Professor, National Law University Delhi & Fellow, Centre for Internet and Society, India.
  9. Dixie Hawtin, Project Manager for Digital Communications and Freedom of Expression, Global Partners and Associates, UK
  10. Farhana Rumki, Associate Programme Coordinator, VOICE, Bangladesh
  11. Kailash Prasad Neupane, Chief of Legal Section, Spokesperson, Secretary and Registrar, Nepal Telecommunications Authority, Nepal
  12. Khairuzzaman Kamal, Founder Secretary General of Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum & Senior Reporter at Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, Bangladesh
  13. Khawaza Mainuddin, Executive Editor, ICE Business Times Magazine, Bangladesh
  14. K S Park, Executive Director, the PSPD Public Interest Law Center & Professor, Korea University Law School, South Korea
  15. Mariyath Mohamed, Journalist, Minivan News, Maldives
  16. Mohammad Nazmuzzaman Bhuian Emon, Associate Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  17. Mohammad Shahriar Rahman, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Asia Pacific & Head, Center for IT Security and Privacy, Bangladesh
  18. Moiyen Zalal Chowdhury, Community Manager, Somewhere.In & Norad Fellow,Bangladesh
  19. Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Chair, International Press Institute & Editor-in-chief and CEO,Boiskakhi TV, Bangladesh
  20. Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director, Centre for Internet and Society, India
  21. Prasanth Sunganathan, Counsel, Software Freedom Law Centre, India
  22. Rezaur Rahman Lenin, Research Fellow, VOICE, Bangladesh
  23. Richa Kaul Padte, Writer, India
  24. Rohan Samarajiva, Chair and CEO, LIRNEasia, Sri Lanka
  25. Saleem Samad, Columnist & Correspondent at Reporters without Borders, Bangladesh
  26. Salimullah Khan, Writer and Professor, Stamford University, Bangladesh
  27. Sana Saleem, Director, Bolo Bhi, Pakistan
  28. Santosh Sigdel, Advocate and Vice President, Internet Society, Nepal Chapter, Nepal
  29. Shahzad Ahmed, Country Director, Bytes for All, Pakistan
  30. Shehla Rashid Shora, Project Officer, Internet Democracy Project, India
  31. Shehnaz Banu, Media and Communication Officer, Alliance for Social Dialogue, Bangladesh
  32. Soheil Zafar, Editor, Unmochan Blog & TV Producer and Researcher, 71 Television, Bangladesh
  33. Suman Lal Pradhan, CEO, Websurfer, Nepal
  34. Sushma Luthra, Event Coordinator, India
  35. Syeda Fedous Jana, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Somewhere.In, Bangladesh
  36. Tahmina Rahman, Director Bangladesh and South Asia Region, Article 19, Bangladesh
  37. Vasana Wickremasena, Executive Director, Centre for Integrated Communication Research and Advocacy, Sri Lanka