Celebrities denounce possible YouTube ban

Many have lashed out at the idea of snatching a survival medium amid a pandemic


July 23, 2020

The first half of the previous decade saw bans on various social media platforms and websites, out of which, the three-year ban on YouTube is probably the most infamous. The ban has been cited as the chief inhibitor for the growth of digital content in Pakistan. And now, amid the ongoing pandemic, when several have turned to the video platform for entertainment or blogging and or even online learning, the Supreme Court has hinted at banning it again.  

On Wednesday, the court objected to unregulated content on social media, particularly comments regarding the judiciary, armed forces and the government on YouTube. “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,” he added, elaborating on how the family members of the judiciary come under scrutiny, particularly on YouTube.

After the hearing, the court issued notices to the attorney-general and the foreign minister.

Following this, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Digital Pakistan, Tania Aidrus, said that banning the video streaming platform was "not a solution”. Taking to Twitter, she wrote, "The three years when YouTube was banned in Pakistan, it held back our content creator ecosystem which has started to flourish just now – creating employment opportunities for thousands.

”Many celebrities including Mehwish Hayat, Osman Khalid Butt, Zara Noor Abbas and Ahmed Ali Butt also took to social media to reciprocate her sentiments.

Enraged, Hayat wrote, “Really? Banning YouTube? What next – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Netflix or even WhatsApp? Freedom of speech is the basic tenet of any society. In Pakistan, social media provides checks and balances that the mainstream doesn’t. Progressive states shouldn’t need to resort to bans!”

Butt, on the other hand, shared Senator Sherry Rehman’s tweet about bringing the attention on other, more acute, matters. Rehman had re-tweeted an earlier statement of Butt’s asking about the violation of child rights in Pakistan and asked, “Don’t we first need a law on minimum age for employment?”

Adding to the thread, Butt wrote, “Yes, we need stricter labour laws in place. Child domestic labour needs to be defined and added in the list of 'hazardous' occupations in: Pakistan Employment of Children Act 1991, Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act 2016, and KP Prevention of Child Labour Act 2015. So they align with the Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act.”

Abbas also condemned the possible ban by addressing how a complete displacement of content creators from YouTube to any other channel would not be possible, given the platform has become an earning hub for plenty in lockdown. “There is a massive industry of content creators, digital makers and entertainers in Pakistan that survive on YouTube. Filtering content would be a great idea but banning YouTube will only create more idleness and negativity amongst the professionals and the public,” she said,

The Ehd-e-Wafa starlet added, “We have already lost too many jobs due to this pandemic. Let's be moderate in this ban towards YouTube. If downsizing and joblessness continues, the next big pandemic could be mental inactivity.”

Rapper Butt added, “PTA, ban the internet – what you don’t understand or control, you ban anyway. There are so many people who earn a decent living from social media, actors included. Instead of a ban you should get better security measures in place. It’s not fair to block an industry because of a few bad apples.”

It is pertinent to mention here that during lockdown, several local artists including Saba Qamar, Khaled Anam, Simi Raheal and Syed Muhammad Kumail, had started their own YouTube channels for entertainment and ‘edutainment’ purposes. Popular YouTuber Irfan Junejo had launched another YouTube channel in April.

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