PTA broadens scope of Internet curbs

Published: May 21, 2010
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ISLAMABAD: Broadening the scope of curbs over blasphemous material on the worldwide web, the Pakistan Te l e c o m m u n i c at i o n s Authority (PTA) on Thursday blocked access to the popular video sharing website YouTube just hours after banning internet access to social networking site Facebook.

Access to certain pages on website like Flickr and Wikipedia sites was also blocked. This may affect a quarter of Pakistan’s internet traffic, say analysts. The PTA urged Facebook and YouTube to “resolve the matter as soon as possible” in a manner that “ensures religious harmony and respect.” Meanwhile, website pcworld. com quoted the Facebook administration as saying that it might consider making content considered to be objectionable by Pakistan inaccessible to users in the country.

“We are analysing the situation… and will take appropriate action, which may include making this content inaccessible to users in Pakistan,” Facebook said in an e-mailed statement. In a related development, the American cartoonist whose work is said to have inspired the controversial “Everybody Draw Mohammed Page” on Facebook has condemned the effort and tendered an apology to Muslims.

PTA spokesperson Khurram Mehran told Express 24/7 that the authority had so far blocked public access to 450 links containing “objectionable sketches and material” since Thursday night. Access to Facebook was blocked on Wednesday after a court ordered a ban on the site until May 31 following an online competition to draw caricatures of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). A PTA official told Reuters that action was taken after the authority determined that some caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) had been transferred from Facebook to YouTube.

Wahajus Siraj, a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) and also CEO of Nayatel, told Reuters that blocking the two websites would slash up to a quarter of all internet traffic in Pakistan. Public sentiment has been strong on the issue. According to Daily Express, protest rallies were taken out all over southern Punjab, including Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalpur and Layyah, to protest against the blasphemous caricatures.

A man is learnt to have been critically injured after he slit his own throat with a knife in Kahror Lal Isan. At a press briefing in Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit said that Pakistan strongly condemned the blasphemous caricatures. Lawyers boycotted court proceedings on Thursday to protest against sacrilegious cartoons on a page hosted by the Facebook, Express Tribune’s Lahore correspondent reported. The protest call was given by the Punjab Bar Council in conjunction with the Lahore Bar Association (LBA). Members of the Lahore High Court Bar Association said they welcomed the LHC decision and urged the government to take up the matter at the International Court of Justice “to stop blasphemous caricatures once and for all”.

In its comments, Facebook also said: “We are very disappointed with the Pakistani courts’ decision to block Facebook without warning, and suspect our users there feel the same way.” YouTube did not respond to a request for comment, according to pcworld.com website. The cartoonist, Molly Norris of Seattle, writing on her website at mollynorris.com, said she had nothing to do with the website or the campaign. “I did not ‘declare’ May 20 to be “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” she said, adding that her idea was satire but “was taken seriously, hijacked and made viral.” “I never started a Facebook page.

I never set up any place for people to send drawings to and I never received any drawings,” she said. “The vitriol this ‘day’ has brought out, of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place,” she said. “I apologise to people of the Muslim faith and ask that this ‘day’ be called off,” she said.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Dee Jay
    May 21, 2010 - 10:48AM

    I dont agree to so called “Everybody Draw…” But all i want to add to this message is:

    Controversy facts:

    Facebook has 400 million users. Only 2 million are from Pakistan. That is 0.5% of the total Facebook audience.
    The offending Facebook page that the Pakistan government banned had about 30,000 members 3 days before May 20.
    Following the complete ban of Facebook in Pakistan, the offending page has 80,000 members and growing as of Thursday evening.

    We have given a good boost to this issue by simply banning FB. What are we doing in 2010, come on guys. Instead of talking on local media and websites. Which is not as global as FB. We should have had guts to answer them back right on FB. And should have made more pages and efforts to show our love for Islam and Prophet (P.B.U.H) But all we did was turing blind eye by blocking the sites. Now the only chance of retaliating the crap was also taken away from us.

    We gave them a safe and open play ground to do whatever they wanted to. And punished our local internet users from not only accessing internet, but also not been able to express their anger and views to the actual platform. Expressing views on local media is of no use. As the culprits dont even know whats the reaction of ‘pakistani’s mulslim community’

    Arent we good enough to strike them back, while dealing with rhem on the same platform ‘facebook’ and talking to them in the same tone? We gave them a cowardly impression……………Recommend

  • Sarah
    May 21, 2010 - 10:54AM

    Banning simply highlighted the issue even more. And ofcourse it supported the guilty ones in getting more fan following. They succeeded in whatever they wanted to do. Pakistani muslims are one of the biggest to protest this crap goin on FB, and by keeping them away our govt took our rights of expression away.

    Now where to srtike them back? or answer them right on their face? We were made hostage to a few stupid fools who actually wanted to keep muslims away, so that they can have all their time to do this crap. And our govt supported them. We dont have a proper platform now to express our anger to the actual culprits.

    Lift the BANN, so that we can show them our views and so called ‘FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION’ in their style.Recommend

  • Ahmed Kamilastapoula
    May 21, 2010 - 5:57PM

    There are tons of jokes and images about other major religions yet you don’t see riots and violence from the Jews or Catholics. Makes the point that islam isn’t as peaceful as people want others to think. When someone says something bad about the “religion” they get death threats and all that… very nice. people of islam wake up!Recommend

  • Shahzeb Mastoi
    May 21, 2010 - 6:44PM

    guys r u idiots if u really wanna reply and u r so much intrested to respond them go and make a site in responce to it but speaking about banning facebook is agood step by this why hatred will be reduced and they will lose a lot of millions dollars which worth them alot b/c they believe on world life and their world life is money u dont even think who much this hurt them its a very good step i appreciate pakistanis step live long pakistan pakistan zindabad!Recommend

  • May 21, 2010 - 7:59PM

    hi friends plz plz dont use facebook till this major issue solv n after we are muslim n a day is not far the we are will appear infornt of ALLAH ON DAY CALLED “DAY OF JUDMENT”
    SO plz plz plz plz plz plz plz aovid the use of these sitesRecommend

  • Ryan Waseem
    May 21, 2010 - 9:09PM

    The western people who talk about freedom of expression, would have been hurt, if any Muslim would have drawn such despicable sketches of Jesus or Moses! Fortunately, every Muslim by religious principle believes that both of these prophets of God are very respectable and even don’t sketch them either! I agree though that banning sites wont make any difference in the end. The thing that would win in the end is a good logic.Recommend

  • Dee Jay
    May 22, 2010 - 2:17PM

    @ Rayan: they wont get hurt, because they dont follow Jesus or Moses either. They believe in a religion free societyRecommend

  • Dee Jay
    May 22, 2010 - 2:18PM

    @ Shahzeb: “idiots” excuse me dude, but u really need some manners to talk on public forums. You first sentence made me lose interest in reading rest of your message. So next time try to reply like a gentleman, so that ur point can be heard.Recommend

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