The Supreme Court hinted at banning YouTube in Pakistan on Wednesday while hearing the case of a man, Shaukat Ali, involved in a sectarian crime.
Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin and Justice Mushir Alam were on the bench hearing the case. The court objected to unregulated content on social media, particularly comments regarding the judiciary, the armed forces and the government.
We have no objection to freedom of expression, remarked Justice Amin. Our salaries are paid from the money of the people, they have the right to raise questions on our decisions and our performance, he said. But the Constitution also grants us the right to privacy, added Justice Amin.
Justice Amin remarked that family members of the judiciary come under scrutiny on YouTube. He referred to a decision announced yesterday which was discussed on the platform and asked whether the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had taken notice of such happenings on the platform where judges are mocked and embarrassed.
A PTA official told the court that the PTA cannot remove objectionable content but can only report it.
YouTube is banned in many countries, said Justice Mushir Alam. He asked whether anyone would dare post content against the United States or the European Union on the platform.
Justice Amin asked how many people have been prosecuted for such crimes while Justice Alam noted that social media is regulated through local laws in many countries.
People are incited against the judiciary, the government and the armed forces, remarked Justice Amin.
The court issued notices to the attorney-general of Pakistan and the foreign ministry on the matter.
Pakistan's digital space has been frequently restricted and is monitored closely through laws such as the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 as well by the federal agencies PTA and FIA.
The first half of the previous decade saw bans on different social media platforms and blocks on various websites, the three-year ban on YouTube being the most infamous for thumping the growth of digital content in the country.