LHC refers YouTube ban case to larger bench

Published: September 19, 2013

The website was blocked by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf about a year ago. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) judge Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah has referred the YouTube ban case to the larger bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial for a hearing as this case is of high importanceExpress News reported.

The court during previous hearings had remarked that it is important to understand the nature of the problem.

“In today’s digital age, information over the Internet cannot be blocked but can be intelligently regulated. There are no borders or walls that can limit this information from flowing into Pakistan unless of course the Internet is shut down completely and links with the outside world are severed,” Justice Shah said.

He further added: “It appears that a sustainable answer to the problem is self regulation at the individual and house-hold level. World Wide Web has all sorts of information ranging from ‘very useful’ to ‘out right offensive’.”

“The choice is ours, we can either draw upon the useful information for our national development or fall prey to the negative content and immerse ourselves into moral and cultural chaos,” the judge said.

Concluding his remarks, he stated that the responsibility and the choice is of the individual whether to visit a controversial website or not as the same cannot be effectively blocked according to the level of technology present in our country today.

The court was hearing the petition filed by Bytes for All, an NGO. The petitioner submitted that any filtering and blocking on internet is counter productive and predatory.

The petitioner sought directions for the Ministry of Information Technology and the PTA to reopen the functioning of YouTube. He said taking away YouTube’s access is the modern equivalent of taking away the scholar’s pen. He prayed to the court to order for restoring access to YouTube in Pakistan.

The website was blocked by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf about a year ago. Since then various segments of the society have demanded the restoration of access to the website.

The former prime minister had imposed the ban after YouTube refused to remove blasphemous film The Innocence of the Muslims from its website.

The Lahore High Court had asked the minister and secretary of Information Technology to appear before the court in August in a petition challenging the ban on access to video sharing website YouTube in Pakistan.

The number of people who accessed the Innocence of Muslims clip on YouTube is a tiny fraction of the number who used it to access educational and Islamic content, the Lahore High Court was told last month as it heard a petition challenging the ban on the video-sharing website. The petitioner in the case at the LHC had argued that the ban is counter-productive as it limits access to a vital educational and research tool.

The government was considering lifting the ban after Eidul Fitr but the ban has still not been lifted as all stakeholders need to be taken into confidence.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the larger bench as the Supreme Court. A correction has been made.

Reader Comments (7)

  • Daud Aziz Khokhar
    Sep 19, 2013 - 2:05PM

    Dear Tribune,

    Kindly rectify the error on the news heading. The case is not referred to Supreme Court. Its referred to larger bench of High Court chaired by Honorable Chief Justice Lahore High Court.

    Thanks.

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  • Sep 19, 2013 - 2:05PM

    I don’t understand why the government doesn’t utilise the same “opt-in” strategy that the British government is using vis-a-vis pornographic websites. This would be an easy system to implement when dealing with just one website. If certain individuals and households want the website to be accessible on their networks then they can ask their service providers to unblock it to their specific IP address/account. That way it won’t be publicly available, and those who want to access it can do so. WIN WIN.

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  • Gemini
    Sep 19, 2013 - 4:22PM

    Now they will open another tender that which company will provide the software which will block these websites and URLs. And like 3G licensing this fight will start and will take more 3 years to resolve this case.

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  • Mj
    Sep 19, 2013 - 5:12PM

    @Junaid:

    Good idea. Censorship of the internet should be optional, not mandatory.

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  • Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany
    Sep 19, 2013 - 6:35PM

    Does the Honourable Chief Justice Whoever know what You Tube is, and what educational benefits it offers.

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  • aqib
    Sep 19, 2013 - 7:59PM

    Judging by the speed of work in our courts, a decision should be made hopefully in next few years.

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  • Zeeshan
    Sep 21, 2013 - 11:32AM

    I think youtube should be unblocked in Pakistan but efforts must be made to block or remove the blasphemous video by any means

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