The best thing about meeting young people brimming with enthusiastic vigor to identify and find solutions for the flaws prevalent in the society, is that they light up a fire in you. The team from Bolo Bhi (Speak Up), a nonprofit organization working for human rights, comprises of exactly such individuals committed to the belief that Pakistan needs positive input from all its citizens, and it is only when they take their destinies in their own hands that they can shape a better future for themselves. Such an attitude in itself is capable of creating a huge change in the dynamics of how this country is run.
Bolo Bhi, however, does not rely on such an attitude alone as it diligently attempts through its research based advocacy to highlight and resolve the multitudes of problems Pakistan is facing. Understanding the significance of “the age of Big Data”, the organization has raised the issue of minimum possible surveillance on the internet by the state or any other entity. Bolo Bhi advocates that the ban on YouTube should be removed since it has not only proved to be counter productive in achieving its aims but has also caused huge losses for the nascent IT industry of Pakistan. Not only has it resulted in creating unemployment, but accessing the banned sites through proxies has made internet users more vulnerable to online espionage and surveillance.
|Bolo Bhi Activism|
Bolo Bhi considers it vital for Pakistanis to understand the importance of protecting personal information online. In the wake of the NSA episode, which clearly made apparent the level of insecurity faced by internet users globally, including Pakistan, awareness of this issue has become all the more crucial, and that is precisely what Bolo Bhi is trying to create with a two pronged strategy. On one front Bolo Bhi is reaching out to policy makers and making them cognizant with the issue of digital security and the digital rights of citizens, so that a clear policy can be outlined. On the other front, it is reaching out to the people by holding awareness sessions for the youth in which the citizens themselves are educated about the need to protect their private information and the ways in which they can safeguard it.
The Bolo Bhi team is aware of the challenges it faces. It feels that one of the major dilemmas is the way the state conducts itself and how it is often held “hostage by the street power” of people who are more often than not misinformed about key issues. Citing the example of YouTube, the team mentioned how the state, rather than informing the public, very often aggravates the situation by mishandling it. The majority of parliamentarians and bureaucrats, the team mentions, are not internet savvy either and this makes it difficult to fully educate them on the issues of cyber security. Then, there is the problem of getting access to them in the first place which can be quite difficult unless one has the right contacts. However, this has not deterred them, as one of the team members elaborated that even though it can be difficult at times to “get your foot in the door, eventually avenues do open up for you if you keep trying”. They also brought to the fore their belief that it is not the uneducated masses which are the root cause of many of our social ills, but rather the stubborn attitude of the so called educated people who remain adamant in not changing their attitudes and embracing the values of tolerance and free speech.
|Workshop by Bolo Bhi|
Bolo Bhi stands for freedom of speech. The name itself urges people to speak up. According to the team, it is only when more and more people start interacting and sharing their perspectives with each other that they can inch closer towards achieving the ideal of peace. By silencing somebody’s voice and by showing intolerance, we provide a reason for harboring hatred that feeds on itself. This is exactly why Bolo Bhi advocates against social media policing by the state. It asserts that the free dissemination of opinion is a first step in engendering values of tolerance in a society.
In making people aware of their rights and urging them to strengthen themselves by standing against injustices, Bolo Bhi is doing a vital service to this country.
(July 24, 2017)
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