With the YouTube ban in place for almost four months now, Pakistan’s academia questions the efficacy of the step, which has not only hidden the blasphemous content on the world’s largest video sharing website, but also veiled all the other and possibly useful content available.
The ban was imposed on September 17, 2012, after a massive uproar from Muslims across the world, against the excerpts of the blasphemous film ‘The Innocence of Muslims’. Internet users, however, acquired access to the website after the ban was removed late in December, only to see it put back in place hours later.
But the blanket ban, as some argue, has brought more bad than good.
“The fact that you have banned something, and that everyone has found an alternative [route] to work around it, speaks volumes about how people view it,” said research fellow at the Centre for Public Policy and Governance at the Forman Christian College Rabia Chaudhry.
Rabia, whose research focuses on political parties and police reforms, argues that the ban has adversely affected people in the country, who use the website for academic reasons.
“As an academic, I cannot ignore this resource. While it may not be a primary resource of research, it certainly is a secondary one, which helps broaden [one’s] understanding,” she says.
However, former chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and former federal minister of Science and Technology Dr Attaur Rahman thinks otherwise.
“Academics rely on books and journals that are accessed through websites of publishers, not through YouTube,” he said.
Adding weight to Rahman’s argument, Fahad Ali, a lecturer at the Institute of Business and Information Technology at the Punjab University, believes that “in Pakistan, the usage of the website for research and academic purposes is negligible.”
Officials at the Information and Technology department at the Virtual University in Lahore believe that while YouTube has been an additional resource for communicating their lectures to students, it is not the only one available.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2013.