KARACHI: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Monday formally issued directives to all internet service providers (ISPs) to remove viewing barriers to YouTube, the most popular video-sharing and streaming website.
The decision comes after the website’s Pakistani domain has already been online for the past couple of days as part of a trial run, a PTA official told The Express Tribune.
“They have blocked unwanted content, which was the main point of contention, and it has been solved,” the official said on the condition of anonymity as the authority is yet to issue a formal statement in this regard.
The YouTube ban, imposed in September 2012, has been a long-standing issue, with digital rights activists and officials within the government calling for a solution to the dispute.
“We acted as a messenger in this case. It is a very sensitive matter so we did what the government told us to do,” the official added. Even though the regulator is largely independent, it is directed by the federal government on matters that pertain to religious sensitivity.
Uplifting the sanction comes after over three years as the popular video-sharing website was blocked in the country after a low-budget movie containing sacrilegious content sparked furious protests around the world.
At the time, the country’s top court ruled that offensive material be removed from the website. Google had removed the movie following a US court order but its shorter versions are still available online.
Last week, a Supreme Court judge had remarked that YouTube is an educational tool and it should not be mixed up with other sites containing pornographic content. “As far as objectionable material is concerned, technical experts must address this issue,” Justice Faez Isa, a member of the two-judge bench, said while hearing a petition seeking a permanent ban on YouTube and abolition of obscenity.
In 2013, two petitions were filed challenging the ban on YouTube: one before the Peshawar High Court and another before the Lahore High Court (LHC). A third petition was filed in 2014 before the Sindh High Court, challenging censorship on the internet while also bringing into question the YouTube ban. Of these, proceedings before Justice Mansoor Ali Shah in the LHC were the most extensive.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2016.
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