Guardians of morality

Published: November 21, 2011
Email
This is the first time the PTA has made any effort to control the content of text messages on grounds of controlling obscenity. PTA

This is the first time the PTA has made any effort to control the content of text messages on grounds of controlling obscenity. PTA

Mobile phone service providers across the country must, under orders from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), prevent the texting, over the vast network system, of some 1,600 words and also submit a monthly report on this. The idea is to control morality. This, of course, is absurd and the entire exercise is also an obviously futile one. It boggles the mind to consider how this collection of ‘offensive language’ was compiled and by whom. We are under threat of becoming the laughing stock of the world. Some of the ‘banned’ words — such as ‘idiot’ or ‘fairy’ or ‘deeper’ can, of course, be used in an entirely innocuous fashion.

But this, of course, is besides the point. The problem we face here is not the ludicrousness of the measure taken, or the choice of words placed on the list, but the fact that such a measure has been taken at all. This is the first time the PTA has made any effort to control the content of text messages on grounds of controlling obscenity. The organisation has lately also made an effort to ban internet access to sites it deems pornographic — even though such material can be obtained in many different ways. The issue that arises here is the effort to bar free speech, free choice and impinge on the privacy of persons communicating between themselves. It is also a fact that what one individual sees as objectionable, may be perfectly acceptable to another. The judgment on this cannot, and must not, be dictated by an outside authority whose actions threaten to turn our country into an Orwellian State. Instead, communications authorities should focus their efforts on providing better and more efficient services to consumers rather than acting as a moral policing force.

We need more civil society protests. Some campaigners, such as the group, Bytes for All, have objected to the clampdown on freedom in cyber space. They need to be joined by other groups so that the basic principle of free expression can be upheld and we retain the right to call ourselves a full-fledged democracy.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2011. 

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (7)

  • Cautious
    Nov 22, 2011 - 12:25AM

    There is never a shortage of people who want to control your lives – if you have enough time to manage the morals of others then I suggest you make better use of that time – perhaps helping the poor who may need/want your help.

    Recommend

  • Nov 22, 2011 - 7:51AM

    Only if there was a Constitution like India’s you guys could have fought this in Court.

    Recommend

  • sensible
    Nov 22, 2011 - 10:51AM

    i just dont get the point that what kinda freedom of speech u get by being able to use explicit words! and lol at privacy of communication! when there is continuos threat of bombing in pakistan! we should have common sense enough to understand it! and porn sites have by no chance any developemental role in any country! and we shouldnot care abt being laughing stock cuz we already are, for our underdevelopement,illitracy and low standard education.

    Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Nov 22, 2011 - 11:36AM

    @sensible So you propose that 1) we let them decide for us what’s right to say and what’s not. 2) We are already laughing stock so let’s continue supporting absurd ideas by naive government companies? I am sorry but only someone extremely naive and retired from reality could suggest that.

    Recommend

  • ahsan
    Nov 22, 2011 - 12:59PM

    pta should have done this ealier

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:38PM

    Have PTA nothing better to do?

    Recommend

  • Nov 22, 2011 - 3:39PM

    Good effort, at least something being done about subversion against Pakistanis.

    Recommend

More in Editorial