Pakistan on a Censorship Binge: First Facebook, Now YouTube

May 20, 2010 by Post Team 

PAKISTAN-YOUTUBE/Pakistan on a Censorship Binge: First Facebook, Now YouTube:ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan has blocked the popular video sharing website YouTube indefinitely in an attempt to contain “blasphemous” material, officials said Thursday.

The blockade came after the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) directed Internet service providers, blocking access to social networking site Facebook on Wednesday indefinitely due to an online competition to draw the prophet Mohammed.

Any depiction of the prophet Mohammed is considered un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims.

Wahaj-us-Siraj, CEO of Nayatel, an Internet service provider, said the PTA issued a warrant search Wednesday of an “immediate” block YouTube.

“It was a very serious statement that we wanted to do it quickly and let you know after that,” he told Reuters.

YouTube was blocked also in the Islamic country in 2007 for about a year, so called non-Islamic videos.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry condemned the publication of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet on Facebook and urged countries to “address the issue,” he said was an “extremely sensitive and emotional matter for Muslims.”

“These malicious and insulting attacks hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world and can not be accepted under the guise of freedom of expression,” the spokesman, Abdul Basit, said in a weekly conference.

The publications of caricatures of the prophet in Danish newspapers in 2005 sparked violent protests in Muslim countries. About 50 people died during violent protests in Muslim countries over cartoons in 2006, five of them in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on Denmark embassy in Islamabad in 2008, killing six people, saying it was in retaliation for the publication of the cartoons.

PTA spokesman Khurram Mehran Ali said the action was taken to block YouTube after authorities determined that the content deemed blasphemous by devout Muslims was on the website.

“Before closing (YouTube), it was just to block certain URLs or links, and access to 450 internet links were arrested, but the content continued to appear blasphemous and ordered a complete shutdown,” he said.


The PTA issued a statement Thursday saying it would “welcome to the competent authorities of Facebook and YouTube to communicate with the PTA to resolve the issue as soon as possible ensuring religious harmony and respect.”

The decision of the PTA to block all of Facebook also cut off Pakistani groups and pages devoted to object to competition, with thousands of supporters than the competition.

Along with the ban, some other websites, including Wikipedia and Flickr, have been inaccessible in Pakistan since late Wednesday.

But the spokesman for the authority said that those sites had been blocked due to a technical reason and no orders had been issued against him.

But he said the authority was monitoring other sites.

Siraj, Nayatel CEO, said that blocking the two websites it would cut up a quarter of the total Internet traffic in Pakistan.

After the PTA directive against Facebook and YouTube, Pakistani phone companies blocked all Blackberry services on the night of Wednesday, but the catering services used by corporate users later on Thursday.

reporting (By Kamran Haider. Additional Augustine Anthony Aziz and Faisal in Karachi, edited by Chris Allbritton)

Image: Supporters of Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami protest in Peshawar against an online competition to draw images of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims consider Facebook blasphemous May 20, 2010. REUTERS / Fayaz Aziz

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