Religious precautions: Control Facebook or face action, LHC warns

Published: May 14, 2011

Chief justice sees a task for committee set up five years ago.

LAHORE: 

The Lahore High Court Chief Justice (CJ) Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry on Friday directed the Inter-Ministerial Committee to control the dissemination of objectionable material on the social networking website, Facebook, and other websites against any religious faith. In case of failure, he warned, the concerned persons would be taken to task.

The CJ issued the order while disposing of several petitions seeking a ban on the website for allegedly hosting a Draw Muhammad (pbuh) Day.

The CJ said that an Inter-Ministerial Committee formed in 2006 by the then prime minister would keep a vigilant eye on the websites and if any objectionable material concerning the religious faith of any group was discovered would take prompt action.

In case of failure, the authorities concerned will be taken to task by initiating disciplinary action against them, the CJ said.

The chief justice observed, “ I am bewildered that in this era of civilisation and modernity, attempts to hurt the religious feelings of the followers of a religion especially the Muslims are not only rampant but have increased manifold.”

The CJ said that the lethargic attitude of government officials towards such material raises a number of questions about their commitment to their duties.

He said: “The Inter-Ministerial Committee and a crisis cell have been established to control such acts but neither has moved to take any step towards blocking such blasphemous material against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) until an order was passed by this court.”

Speaking about Facebook, the CJ mentioned in his order, “China has also imposed a complete ban on the said website. … Why has the Pakistan government been so hesitant in this regard? The government shall strive for legislation in this regard along the lines already adopted by other Islamic countries in addition to China.”

If such blasphemous acts were committed again the government would sue the concerned authorities at the appropriate forums, he said.

With these observations and directions, the CJ disposed of writ petitions filed by Islamic Lawyers Forum, the Judicial Activism Panel and others.

It is pertinent to mention here that the LHC had banned access to Facebook in the country on May 19, 2010, and lifted it on May 31, 2010.

In the beginning of the 12-page judgment, the CJ said, “The factual canvas on the basis of which the present petitions have been filed is that a proscribed website known as Facebook on the pretext of protest against efforts to limit freedom of speech, in fact with a view to lower the stature, dignity, honour and respect enjoyed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) not only amongst his followers but amongst the non-followers as well, launched a competition “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”.

According to the said unholy, unscrupulous and so-called competition, on May 20, 2010, the users of the said … website were invited to draw drawing/cartoons/shapes representing the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In addition thereto, caricatures/cartoons depicting the personality of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were posted on the internet on April 20, 2010.”

Meanwhile, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed in a new petition against Facebook summoned a deputy attorney general on May 18 for assistance after the judgment and restraining orders passed by the CJ on February 28, 2011.

Facebook did not host the ‘competition.’ In fact, one of its users hosted it. Facebook did offer to block the offending page from its users in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2011.

 

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Reader Comments (4)

  • May 15, 2011 - 12:09AM

    I hope someone in front of the judges made the facts in the last paragraph clear.

    Also, I really really wish people would stop bringing up China’s example. They block sites to prevent alternate political views and to control their citizens’ freedom online.Recommend

  • Aijaz Hussain
    May 15, 2011 - 3:12AM

    China also practised forced birth control and communism……does Mr.CJ want us to do the same?

    This is sheer stupidity….without understanding the simple situation that anyone can make a page on the internet, and that he is completely free to do so, we’re going to shut off our own access? this is akin to denying yourself water because your rival spat in the river!

    If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. ~Noam Chomsky

    NO ONE has the right to deny me access to whatever I wish to access, if i wish to burn in hell, this should be MY sole prerogative…Recommend

  • Judi
    May 16, 2011 - 6:39AM

    I am astonished and disturbed to hear this ruling! Judges are supposed to be the vanguard of free speech and freedom of association. HOW LHC judges can deprive people of their fundamental rights!!! Internet is a free medium and Judiciary should guard its independence. It would be weird logic if we close the operations of the roads, Motor-ways, cars and planes because people are being killed in accident. Look at the contribution of the FB in the middle east democratic revolution and freedom movements of people of middle east. Recommend

  • Pradip Doshi
    May 17, 2011 - 5:38AM

    Is LHC or petitioners totally wrong? How if someone draws a cartoon of yours or your parent or the person whom you revere most, just to demean you or your parent or your revered person?

    I am not a Muslim or from Pakistan. I am a Hindu from India.

    Who does allow, someone else to make fun of your wife, sister or mother? Could this be allowed in the name of right to personal freedom of the mocker?

    We have to protect the personal freedom and also the society. We can not allow personal freedom at the cost of protection to the society.

    There r lots & lots of perverts in the society. Criminals are kept in jails than why not perverts or medium for perverts be controlled?

    The message or picture etc on social sites should be in good taste and not be disgusting. Recently, an Australian co. printed photo of Hindu Goddess Laxmi on a bad part of lingerie. Hindus protested & our Govt. communicated with Australian Embassy.

    Such pervert products have no honourable intentions but irritable stupidity to arouse law and order situation. Is Govt. supposed to be maintaining law & order situation, not expected and empowered to prevent situations which might lead to law & order problem? Do we not expect our Govt. to take proper actions in time? What if law & order problem arise out of disgusting matter on social sites? Shall we not criticize the Govt? Recommend

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