Digitally Right, in partnership with EngageMedia, co-hosted a solidarity event of the Asia-Pacific Digital Rights Forum on January 14, 2023, in Dhaka. The event was attended by around 30 academics, journalists, lawyers, feminists, researchers, and activists from different communities.
It coincided with four other simultaneous solidarity events in Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila that aimed to provide spaces for changemakers to meet each other and build stronger regional solidarity.
The Dhaka event featured sessions on online media freedom, hate speech, online gender-based violence (OGBV), and a focus group discussion (FGD) on the use of open and secure technology. Toward the end of the day, the group shared their learnings with their peers in the four other solidarity events through a virtual video call.
The event started with a session on online media freedom and censorship, which tackled issues ranging from the key actors involved in restricting free speech to discussions on reasonable restrictions to speech without hindering fundamental rights.
The second session on online hate speech and OGBV opened discussions on feminist politics, social justice movements, and backlash against gender equality in the digital space. Participants also talked about the reality and impact of online hate speech and gender-based violence in the Global South, especially in Bangladesh. According to a November 2021 survey, cases of OGBV increased during the pandemic, with 63.51 percent of 359 respondents saying they faced online violence.
The solidarity event concluded with an FGD to assess the awareness of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and digital rights advocates in Bangladesh regarding online threats and surveillance. Participants discussed their understanding of ways to mitigate these threats using open and secure technology – such as by using virtual private networks, encrypted password managers, and secure messaging apps. The discussions also scrutinized the reasons behind the use or non-use of such technologies and how changemakers can work in more secure, ethical, and sustainable ways.