KARACHI: After its brief restoration, video-sharing web portal YouTube was blocked again on the orders of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Express News reported on Saturday.
“The prime minister has issued orders to block YouTube again,” a senior official in Ashraf’s office told AFP, declining to provide more detail or a reason for the decision.
Earlier, the government had ordered internet service providers (ISP) across the country to unblock it.
The notification for unblocking the website was issued by Assistant Director (Enforcement) Ali Waqas Raza to all ISPs across the country.
He requested the ISPs to “immediately unblock/restore complete YouTube website provisionally till further orders” and called for submission of compliance through email by 3pm.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Twitter that the decision to allow access was due to huge public demand, and that the telecom regulator would install a firewall to maintain a block on unseemly content.
“There was a great demand to unblock YouTube from all sections of society… expect the notification today,” Malik said.
“PTA is finalising negotiations for acquiring a powerful firewall software to totally block pornographic and blasphemous material,” he added.
The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) confirmed they have also received the notification and welcomed the announcement.
ISPAK Convener Wahajus Siraj told AFP that when the ban first came into force, Internet video traffic in Pakistan plummeted by up to 30 percent.
“It is a good development because many people, especially students and institutions, were using YouTube for education, and were facing difficulties as alternate websites were not as good,” he said.
Earlier, Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) officials told The Express Tribune that at least two stakeholders, the interior minister and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) recommended that the prime minister reopen the website.
The official said that Rehman Malik was most insistent on YouTube’s restoration. He met with the PTA officials on Friday and tweeted about the restoration of the website hours later.
The government had banned YouTube on September 17 to block access to blasphemous film Innocence of Muslims after violent protests erupted across the Muslim world.
Nationwide protests ensued on September 21, claiming 26 lives, wounding 200 people and causing massive financial damage across the country.
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